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each part signed and dated 'Richter, 73' and consecutively numbered '52, 53, 54' (on the reverse)
each: oil on canvas
each: 10 3⁄8 x 21 1⁄8in. (26.4 x 53.6cm.)
overall: 10 3⁄8 x 63 ¾in. (26.4 x 161.9cm.)
Painted in 1973
Galerie Seriaal, Amsterdam.
Private Collection, Germany.
Anon. sale, Christie’s London, 7 February 2002, lot 598.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Gerhard Richter. Bilder/Paintings 1962-1985, 1986, p. 383 (illustrated. p. 163).
H. Butin, Gerhard Richter: Editionen 1965-1993, Munich 1993, no. 41 (another example illustrated in colour, p. 123).
Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Werkübersicht/Catalogue raisonné 1962-1993, vol. 3, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, no. 338/1-100 (complete series illustrated in colour, unpaged).
H. Butin, S. Gronert and the Dallas Museum of Art (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Editions 1965-2004, Ostfildern-Ruit 2004, no. 50 (another example illustrated in colour, pp. 34 and 190; complete series illustrated, p. 34).
H. Butin, S. Gronert and T. Olbricht (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Editions 1965-2013, Ostfildern 2014, no. 50 (another example illustrated in colour, pp. 42 and 214; complete series illustrated, p. 42).
D. Elger (ed.), Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné, Nos. 198-388, 1968-1976, Vol. II, Berlin 2017, no. 338/1-100 (complete series illustrated in colour, pp. 508-509).
Amsterdam, Galerie Seriaal, Rot-Blau-Gelb, 1973.
Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, 1973 (incorrectly referenced as cat. no. 340).

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Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted in 1973, Rot-Blau-Gelb (Red-Blue-Yellow) is positioned at the very inception of Gerhard Richter’s abstract practice, foreshadowing the powerful Abstrakte Bilder of the following decade. Confronting the boundary between reality and representation, painting and illusion, Richter distils his picture surface to three chromatic components. In iridescent, lush swathes of brushwork, the artist renders a mesmeric spectrum of colour that is constantly shifting. The triptych constitutes numbers 52, 53, and 54 of a series of one hundred uniquely painted canvases created for the original installation at the Galerie Seriaal, Amsterdam in 1973. Hung in a block formation that encompassed the entire gallery wall, the dynamic display spanned a staggering 2.6 metres in height and 5.3 metres in width. Enveloping the viewer within a field of illusionistic swirls and sfumato hues, the ambitious work testifies to the artist’s increasing fascination with optical effect and the nature of image-making during this pivotal time.

A gestural extension of the artist’s Colour Charts and monochromatic Grau (Grey) paintings of 1972-1976, the Rot-Blau-Gelb series of Vermalung or ‘inpaintings’ bridge the artist’s photorealist and abstract canvases, two poles which have come to define Richter’s career. Marking a significant juncture in the artist’s pictorial development, Rot-Blau-Gelb is devoid of figurative content. Though the earliest of his inpaintings were rendered with an exclusively grey palette, by the time of the present work his chromatic scheme had expanded to three primary colours. Blended to a seemingly infinite array of hue, the three canvases are invigorated with vivid energy; the undulating strokes morph and dance before our eyes like the aurora borealis. Dissecting the pictorial surface into its fundamental elements—shape, colour, and light—Richter reveals the surprising and bewitching possibilities of abstraction.

The canvas ripples with dynamic motions of the paintbrush. Richter musters a sculptural quality amidst his smoothly layered web of oil paint, and one can detect the sensuous pleasure derived from the plasticity of his medium. Initially applying his paint in tessellated patches on each canvas, Richter went on to fuse each colour in great, sweeping strokes. Meandering over his picture surface, he blurs and elides his image, obfuscating form altogether. ‘Richter succeeded in taking the inpaintings to a threshold where they exist—period’, writes Dietmar Elger. ‘There are no underlying or overriding themes, no justifications, hierarchies, or declamations. It is nearly impossible, for example, to designate the red-blue-yellow inpaintings as colour paintings or depictions of colour; they possess, at best, an indifferent colourfulness. The title Rot-Blau-Gelb is thus a tease – less a traditional label than a list of the ingredients used in the act of painting.’ (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, pp. 211-214).

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