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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION

Grünes Feld (Green Field)

Grünes Feld (Green Field)
signed, numbered and dated '223 Richter 69' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
39 x 49 1/4in. (99 x 125cm.)
Painted in 1969
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1975.
Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Venice, XXXVI Biennale Internazionale dell'Arte, La Bienale di Venezia - German Pavilion, 1972, p. 41, no. 223 (illustrated, p. 70).
R. Wedewer, ‘Zum Landschaftstypus Gerhard Richters’, in Pantheon, no. 33, 1975, p. 47.
J. Harten and D. Elger (eds.), Gerhard Richter Bilder: Paintings 1962-1985, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1986, p. 373, no. 223 (source image illustrated, p. 98).
F. Jahn (ed.), Gerhard Richter Atlas, exh. cat., Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, 1989 (source image illustrated, p. 94).
Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Werkübersicht/Catalogue Raisonné: 1962-1993, vol. III, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, p. 158, no. 223 (illustrated in colour, p. 32).
H. Friedel and U. Wilmes (eds.), Atlas of the photographs, collages and sketches, London 1997, p. 340, no. 171 (source image illustrated in colour, p. 95).
H. Althöfer (ed.), Informel: Begegnung und Wandel, vol. II, Dortmund 2002, p. 90 (illustrated in colour, p. 89).
G. Ruge and J. Schäfer (eds.), Lebensbilder, Landesbilder: Geschichten aus und über Nordrhein-Westfalen, Münster 2003, no. 203 (illustrated in colour, p. 202).
H. Friedel (ed.), Gerhard Richter Atlas, London 2006, p. 816, no. 171 (source image illustrated in colour, p. 190).
Gerhard Richter: Panorama, exh. cat., London, Tate Modern, 2011, p. 248.
D. Elger (ed.), Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné, Nos. 198-388, 1968-1976, Vol. II, Berlin 2017, no. 223 (illustrated in colour, p. 129).
Bonn, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Der Westen leuchtet, 2010, p. 405 (illustrated in colour, p. 359).
Wiesbaden, Museum Wiesbaden, Gerhard Richter. Frühe Bilder, 2018.
Bonn, Kunstmuseum Bonn (on long-term loan since 2001).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Interim Head of Department

Lot Essay

Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1975, Grünes Feld (Green Field) (1969) is a rare early example of Gerhard Richter’s coloured photorealist landscapes. Bisected across the horizon line, the work depicts a rolling green pasture beneath a mottled sky. Based on a photograph documented in his compendium Atlas, it replicates the blurred surface of the original snapshot, the scene dissolving into an abstract haze. Formerly on loan to the Kunstmuseum Bonn, the work captures the birth of landscape painting in earnest within Richter’s practice. Contemporaneous with his celebrated Wolken (Clouds) and Seestücke (Seascapes), it captures the engagement with German Romanticism that would occupy him for the next two decades. Though Richter had been making photo-paintings since 1962, it was not until 1968 that he began to work from colour landscape images, and increasingly from his own photographs. One of a small number of these works from 1969 to remain in private hands, Grünes Feld takes its place alongside similar early examples held in institutions worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna and the Neues Museum, Nuremberg, on long-term loan.

Richter’s first landscapes date from the early 1960s, but it was after a trip to Corsica that the genre began to assume a prominent position in his oeuvre. In 1968, with his wife Ema and young daughter Betty, the artist travelled to the island for his first family vacation. While there, he captured numerous rolls of film which he subsequently translated into paintings, each defined by their wide open horizons and low dramatic skies. Where Richter had previously worked largely from secondary sources—including magazines, newspapers and family albums—he would subsequently make frequent use of his own photographs. He began to capture the German countryside and locations he visited on his travels, relishing the blurred resolution and hazy sense of nostalgia latent in his snapshots. ‘I see countless landscapes, photograph barely one in 100,000, and paint barely 1 in 100 of those that I photograph’, he explained. ‘I am therefore seeking something quite specific’ (G. Richter, quoted in D. Elger (ed.), Gerhard Richter: Landscapes, Ostfildern-Ruit 1998, p. 19).

As part of this process, Richter’s earlier black and white visions of the natural world transformed into shimmering coloured vistas. The greyscale Alpine mountain-scapes and Waldstücke (Forest Pieces) gave way to the subtle tinted palette of his Vierwaldstätter See cycle, created shortly before the present work. Elsewhere, his Wolken and Seestücke would embrace sumptuous tones: from celestial blue and gold to stormy ochre and burnished copper. In Grünes Feld, fresh, vibrant tones of green collide with rich, earthen hues. Silvery passages dance across the sky, with shards of light seeping through the clouds. Richter’s move to colour marked the start of a significant new chapter in his practice. The artist was already beginning to dissect the chromatic spectrum in his Farbtafeln (Colour Charts), and would plunge deeply into its mysteries in his pursuit of free abstraction over the course of the next decade.

Conceptually, Richter’s landscapes occupy pivotal territory among his photo-paintings. Having grown up during the Second World War, the artist was keenly attuned to photography’s psychological power, and the complex truth claims made by the camera. ‘[A photograph] usually gets believed, even where it is technically faulty and the content is barely legible’, he wrote. ‘Photography altered ways of thinking and seeing. Photographs were regarded as true, paintings as artificial’ (G. Richter, ‘Notes, 1964-1965’, reproduced in D. Elger and H-U. Obrist (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 30). Landscape painting in particular, lamented Richter, had lost its innocence. Since his student days, he had wrestled with the legacy of German Romanticism, which—in the hands of artists such as Caspar David Friedrich—had proposed that the canvas could function as a window onto the world. Later artists, from Monet to Van Gogh, had similarly believed it was possible to seal the essence of nature in a brushstroke. For Richter, whose native landscape had been traumatised by conflict, such promises seemed like a distant memory.

By consciously referencing the paintings of his Romantic forebears, but cloaking them in the guise of photography, Richter sought to unpack the complex relationship between the two media. On one hand, Grünes Feld conjures the sweeping drama of a Friedrich landscape, capturing the theatrical splendour of the meeting of land and sky. At the same time, the work cleaves meticulously to its photographic origins, carefully replicating the blurs and imperfections of its surface. The painting seduces the viewer’s gaze, only to deflect and confound it. The nearer we draw to its halcyon vision, the more it dissolves before our eyes. ‘Every beauty that we see in landscape’, explained Richter, ‘—every enchanting colour effect, or tranquil scene, or powerful atmosphere, every gentle linearity or magnificent spatial depth or whatever is our projection; and we can switch it off at a moment’s notice’ (G. Richter, 1986, quoted in H-U. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London 1995, p. 124).

The dualities played out in Grünes Feld would come to form the touchstone of Richter’s practice and discourse. Over the following two decades, he would continue to pursue landscape painting at regular intervals, culminating in masterworks such as Wiesental (Meadow) (1985, Museum of Modern Art, New York), Chinon (1987, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) and Feldweg (Country Lane) (1987, Daros Collection, Zurich). Concurrently, however, he immersed himself in abstract painting, creating complex marbled surfaces that eventually made use of his signature squeegee tool. In the process, he came to the realisation that figuration and abstraction were not polar opposites but rather parallel states. A landscape could crumble into an illegible mass of texture, form and colour, while an abstract painting—conversely—could invoke water, clouds and other natural phenomena. The conditions of painting and photography, in this context, effectively cancelled each other out. Both, ultimately, were illusions; neither could truly lay claim to reality. The romance and wonderment that radiate from a work like Grünes Feld was—for Richter—simply a fantasy: a golden dream of a lost world that believed images could show us the truth.

On one hand, then, Grünes Feld looks forwards, anticipating both the evolution of Richter’s landscape works and his broader thesis on the nature of art-making. At the same time, however—in spite of itself—the work remains suspended in perpetual dialogue with the historic ideals it rejects. For all its conceptual subversion, a flicker of poignant, nostalgic hope remains. Just as Friedrich had invited his viewers to step over the threshold of the painting and into nature itself, Grünes Feld quivers with the distant promise of transcendence, momentarily offering to transport us to a place of beauty and tranquillity. The innocent faith of times gone by, it suggests, might yet be restored. Ultimately, explained Richter, ‘a painting by Caspar David Friedrich is not a thing of the past. What is past is only the set of circumstances that allowed it to be painted … Beyond that, if it is any “good”, it concerns us—transcending ideology—as art that we consider worth the trouble of defending (perceiving, showing, making). It is therefore quite possible to paint like Caspar David Friedrich today’ (G. Richter, quoted in Gerhard Richter: Landscapes, exh. cat. Sprengel Museum, Hannover 1998, p. 12).

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