Frequently returning to Switzerland throughout his life, Gerhard Richter’s landscape is a poetic representation of a well-loved destination. The dramatic, awe inspiring mountains, combined with the lake’s placid surface gave rise to an inspirational moment for many artists, including Alexandre Calame, Albert Bierstadt, John Ruskin and most notably J.M.W. Turner. Like many artists before him, Turner initially headed south in search of light and in 1819 travelled to Italy, later visiting Switzerland in the 1840s where he was captivated by the sublime beauty of the mountain landscape.
In many ways this can be seen to resonate with Richter’s own travels in 1969, beginning further south in Corsica where the study of light dominates his works, and then later to Switzerland where he seems to have encountered the same sense of awe and sublime as Turner did over a century before him.
‘We came back from [the Sahara] absolutely cleansed of all the intoxications, really refreshed and renewed, as well as enriched in the ways of savoir-vivre.’ (J. Dubuffet, quoted in Prospectus et tous écrits suivants, vol. 2, Paris 1995).
Housed in the same private collection since 1958, Jean Dubuffet’s Bédouin sur l’âne (Bedouin on a donkey) is among the largest, most majestic and visionary paintings created following the second of the artist’s three seminal sojourns in the Algerian Sahara.
Drawn to warmer climes by the post-war coal restrictions during a freezing Parisian winter, Dubuffet and his wife Lili made their first trip to the small oasis of El Goléa in February 1947, returning periodically over the next two years. During these visits, Dubuffet spent much time in the company of the Bedouin people, whose influence was particularly prominent in this southern region of Algeria. His depictions of these figures stand as a testimony to his deliberate immersion in local culture.
Untitled (New York City) marks Cy Twombly’s return to and reinvestigation of a kind of handwritten mark that the artist had first explored in the mid-1950s while sharing a studio with Robert Rauschenberg in Fulton Street, New York. There — inspired by the then dominant examples of Jackson Pollock and Jean Dubuffet but also by the work of John Cage whom, with Rauschenberg, he had encountered at Black Mountain College — Twombly had embarked on an ambitious series of large ‘handwritten’ black and white paintings.
Belonging to the final ‘type’ of ‘blackboard’ paintings that Twombly made, Untitled (New York City) is one of a number of works that begin to reveal the exact moment or place where the graphic art of writing and drawing starts to fuse into and become the more cohesive, plastic art of painting. It is exactly this aspect of these works that Twombly set out explore with the similarly formatted ‘blackboards’ he began in New York in 1970, and of which Untitled (New York City) is one of the first examples.