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A Century of Art: The Gerald Fineberg Collection


signed and dated 'Richter 67' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
63 x 78 1/2 in. (160 x 200 cm.)
Painted in 1967.
Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich
Galerie Sabine Knust, Munich
Private collection, Kleinwallstat
Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
David Nolan Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1987
"Gerhard Richter," Art International, March 1968, p. 55 (illustrated).
Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Aachen, Gegenverkehr, Zentrum für aktuelle Kunst, 1969, n.p., no. 75 (illustrated).
36th Biennale in Venice, German Pavillion, exh. cat., Venice Biennale, 1972, pp. 39 and 55 (illustrated).
Magazin Kunst, no. 1, 1974, pp. 66-67.
Gerhard Richter: Paintings 1962-1985, exh. cat., Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1986, pp. 33-35, 59-60, 64, 367 (illustrated).
A. Thill, et. al., Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1993, p. 314, no. 154 (illustrated).
K. Kruger, "The Block Inside the Picture," Pantheon, vol. LIII, 1995, pp. 157-158 (illustrated).
D. Elger, Gerhard Richter, Maler, Cologne, 2002, pp. 138, 140, 441 (studio view illustrated).
L' Œil, Oct. 2002, p. 1 (illustrated).
"The Artnews 200 Top Collectors: Gerald and Sandra Fineberg," Artnews, 2003, p. 114 (illustrated).
M. Francis and H. Foster, eds., Pop, London, 2005, p. 34.
Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Düsseldorf, K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, 2005, p. 38 (illustrated).
Gerhard Richter Without Color, exh. cat., Burgdorf, Museum Franz Gertsch, 2005, pp. 34-35, no. 13 (illustrated).
E. Kiffl, Inside the Studio, Cologne, 2008, p. 28 (studio view illustrated).
Gerhard Richter Panorama, exh. cat., Strombeek-Bever, Cultuurcentrum Strombeek Grimbergen, 2008, pp. 7, 84 (illustrated).
B. Buchloh, Gerhard Richter (The October Files), Boston, 2009, p. 121.
D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago, 2009, pp. 114-115, 365 (illustrated).
J. Gelshorn, Aneignung und Wiederholung. Bilddiskurse im Werk von Gerhard Richter und Sigmar Polke, Munich, 2012, p. 80.
H. Foster, "Gerhard Richter, or the Photogenic Image," The First Pop Age, Princeton/Oxford, 2012, p. 191.
S. Knust and B. van Renswou, "Galerie Heiner Friedrich. München, Köln, New York, 1963-1980," sediment, no. 21/22, 2013, p. 42.
D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné, 1976-1987, Ostfildern, 2013, vol. 3, p. 314, no. 154 (illustrated).
Konigsklasse III, exh. cat., Herrenchiemsee, Neues Schloss, 2015, pp. 29-31 (illustrated).
Gerhard Richter 'Brigid Polk', exh. cat., Pinakothek der Moderne in Schloss Herrenchiemsee, 2015, pp. 29-30, 36, 40 (illustrated).
A. Zwetie, Gerhard Richter Life and Work, Munich, 2019, p. 42.
Baselitz – Richter – Polke – Kiefer, exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 2019, pp. 151-154.
A. Zweite, Gerhard Richter. Leben und Werk. Das Denken ist beim Malen das Malen, Munich, 2019, pp. 42-43, 119, 160, 170, 173.
Munich, Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Gerhard Richter: New Paintings, May-June 1967.
Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Figurations, July-September 1967, p. 56, no. 127.
Antwerp, Wide White Space, Gerhard Richter, October-November 1967.
Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Akt '68: Sculptures, Pictures and Graphics from German Artists, October-November 1968, n.p., no. 114.
Brussels, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Europalia '77: 12 since '45, October-November 1977.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Wide White Space 1966-1976, October-December 1994, p. 154 (illustrated).

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Michael Baptist
Michael Baptist Associate Vice President, Specialist, Co-Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

A historic icon within Gerhard Richter’s practice, Badende (Bathers) is a rare work from the artist’s landmark early series of female nudes. Combining extraordinary technical bravura with a powerful commentary on the nature of image consumption, it occupies pivotal territory in his seminal body of photo-paintings. Conjuring the ‘bathers’ of Ingres, Cézanne and others, Badende is the most ambitious and virtuosic in a sequence of paintings made in 1967. The series, created in the wake of major 1966 nudes such as Ema (Akt auf einer Treppe) (Museum Ludwig, Cologne) and Zwei Liebespaare (Daros Collection, Zurich), combined references to art history and mass-produced erotic imagery, chiming with the contemporary currents of Pop Art. Where Richter had previously worked from single sources, here he weaves a dazzling composite vision from multiple photographic images, pushing his figures to the brink of abstraction. In a unique instance of self-quotation, he would later depict the painting in his 1971 portraits of the American artist Brigid Polk (Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich and Tate, London). Widely exhibited as Richter rose onto the international stage, Badende became a defining canvas of the period, taking its place as a centerpiece of the Gerald Fineberg Collection in 1987.

Richter’s 1967 series of nude and semi-nude women formed a vital strand of his early practice: examples have graced institutions including the Kunstmuseum Bonn, the Neues Museum, Nuremberg, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Olbricht Collection and the Yageo Foundation, Taipei. Comparable in scale to just two other works in the cycle, Badende is distinguished by its subtle tinted palette, indicating Richter’s gradual move away from black and white in his photo-paintings. The rich complexity of its composition, moreover, stands alone within the series. The artist had been fascinated by the historic motif of the bathers since his student days at the Dresden Academy, and particularly admired Ingres’ The Turkish Bath (1862). Shrouded in ambiguity, Richter’s nudes shift in and out of focus, their limbs dissolving into abstract patterns. Their features, blurred to the point of anonymity, place them eternally beyond the viewer’s grasp. In the indeterminate depths of the painting, where reality gives way to illusion, Richter enacts the dynamics of desire, deferral, seduction and misdirection that define our interactions with all imagery.

Richter began painting from photographs in 1962, but had long been fascinated by the medium. Having grown up during the Second World War, he was keenly aware of the camera’s power to tap into the human psyche. Photography’s claims to truth, he understood, were complex: its apparent objectivity endowed it with a hidden capacity for deception, often provoking irrational but deeply emotional responses from the viewer. Painting, too, had not escaped the war unscathed. For the Romantics it had offered a window to the world: by the 1960s, such promises seemed futile. By meticulously replicating the appearance of photography in pigment—its glitches, blurs and imperfections—Richter revealed the duplicities of both media. His sources, often banal images drawn from everyday life, took on a sense of mystery and wonder when translated into painterly photorealism. The lofty ideals of the past, simultaneously, disintegrated when disguised in the trappings of photography. Richter’s painstakingly-rendered surfaces drew the viewer in, but ultimately dissolved upon closer inspection. “I like the indefinite, the boundless,” he explained; “I like continual uncertainty” (G. Richter, “Notes, 1966,” in H-U. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting, London, 1995, p. 58).

In their choice of subject matter, Richter’s 1967 nudes spoke powerfully to the cultural zeitgeist. Women had long featured as key subjects in his paintings, typically based on images depicting professional or domestic settings, or on family photographs. In Badende and its companions, however, Richter turned his attention to the rise of nudity and eroticism in contemporary image circulation. As the sexual revolution swept the Western world during the 1960s, it was a concern very much of its time. Pop Art’s fascination with image consumption had led artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann, Gerald Laing and Richard Hamilton to interrogate this new brand of liberated iconography. Richter’s friend and comrade Sigmar Polke, meanwhile, would confront similar themes in his Freundinnen and Bunnies of the mid-1960s. Elsewhere, artists such as Marina Abramović and Yayoi Kusama were beginning to use their own naked forms in new and empowered ways, freeing the representation of the female body from the male gaze. In Richter’s Badende—like Olympia, Diana and other allusively-titled works from the series—the nudes of art history are similarly subverted. No longer passive muses, his bathers transcend their pastoral ancestors, courting the viewer’s gaze only to deflect and confound it.

This quality is enhanced by the work’s fictional composite structure. Though Richter had experimented with fusing figures from separate photographs in other works from the series, his creative license reached new heights in Badende. The weaving together of multiple sources, notably, was a strategy that Ingres had also employed in The Turkish Bath. In Richter’s composition, some women are fully formed, echoing photographs documented his compendium Atlas. Others are mere shadows, dissolving into the darkness like fading light. Richter explained that “The nudes are a departure from the pure copying of a general photograph because the images are artificially composed,” noting that “one is drawn to them” as a result (G. Richter, “Statement, December 1967,” Art International, March 1968, p. 55). Dietmar Elger notes that “This statement marks a decisive complication in the artist’s preoccupation with the authenticity of photographic representation,” explaining that works such as Badende insist “upon a distance between the female object and the observer” (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne, 2009, p. 114). Each woman is a figment; the whole is but an illusion. Through the hazy friction of the work’s surface, Richter diffuses the image’s voyeuristic charge, slyly neutralizing the eroticism of his subject matter in the process.

Richter’s 1967 nudes helped to cement his reputation at a critical moment in his early career. Badende and several of its companions were unveiled in his major solo exhibition at Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich in May: a showing of thirty works, more than half of which now reside in museums. Richter’s nudes were displayed alongside his seminal 4 Glasscheiben (4 Panes of Glass), prompting critics to liken the spectacle to Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass). The comparison was a pertinent one for Richter, who had invoked the latter’s Nude Descending a Staircase in Ema (Akt auf einer Treppe), and whose entire practice flirted with Duchampian notions of the “readymade” image. The exhibition and its reception formed part of a broader wave of success for Richter during 1967, which saw his receipt of the Art Prize of the Young West—his first award—and a steady stream of exhibitions. Badende, indeed, remained on public view for almost the entire remainder of the year, featuring in the group show Figuration at the Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart that summer, as well as Richter’s solo exhibition at the pioneering Wide White Space, Antwerp, in the fall.

The work’s personal significance for Richter, moreover, is demonstrated by his singular decision to reference it in a later suite of canvases. In 1971 he made six photo-paintings depicting Brigid Polk: a close friend of Andy Warhol and a key member of his studio, whom Richter had met the previous year. Badende is visible in the background of three of them, with Polk seated naked before it, as well as in the corresponding source photos. The works were displayed together at Galerie Heiner Friedrich in 1972, just five years after Badende had made its own debut there. Born Brigid Berlin before adopting the nickname by which she became known, Polk was celebrated for her use of the camera. She also harnessed her own body as a medium, notably using her own paint-covered breasts to create what she described as “tit prints”—often as part of public performances. Her liberated approach to the female body, as well as her close associations with Pop Art and photography, resonated with Richter’s own concerns. His deliberate pairing of her naked form with Badende, indeed, suggests a close synergy between the two.

Perhaps more than anything, this later treatment of the painting spoke deeply to Richter’s ideas about art’s illusory power. In his portraits of Polk, Badende is reborn as a painting within a painting: a figment in and of itself. Already by 1967, Richter’s practice was becoming increasingly conceptual, with works such as his Türen (Doors) and Umgeschlagene Blätter (Turned Sheets) offering ever-more explicit visions of imagery’s capacity for artifice. By the time Richter returned to the bathers as a subject in 1994—a small single figure entitled Kl. Badende—he had journeyed far and wide in pursuit of this enquiry, having spent almost three decades oscillating back and forth between photo-painting and free abstraction. Truth and fiction, he came to realize, were two sides of the same coin. A pristine simulacrum of the world was as much a fantasy as a full-scale distortion of it; reality, in turn, was a set of messy abstractions, perpetually held in flux. In Badende, the seeds of this revelation are sown. In the entanglement of past and present, painting and photography, Richter gives form to the enigmatic, liminal state that underpins the very nature of image-making.

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