Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from a Distinguished Asian Private Collection
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)

Frost (1)

Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
Frost (1)
signed, inscribed and dated '703-1 Richter 1989' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
55 1/8 x 39 3/8 in. (140 x 100 cm.)
Painted in 1989.
Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York
Leonard Rosenberg Fine Art Inc., New York
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 16 May 2007, lot 46
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
A. Thill, et. al., Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1962–1993, vol. III, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1993, no. 703-1 (illustrated in color).
D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. IV, 1988–1994, Ostfildern, 2015, p. 257, no. 703-1 (illustrated in color).
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Gerhard Richter 1988/89, October-December 1989 (illustrated in color).
New York, Sperone Westwater Gallery, Gerhard Richter: New Paintings, February 1990.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Sale room notice
Please note that the height of Lot 8 is 140 cm.
請注意拍品編號8的高度為 140 厘米。

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Jacky Ho
Jacky Ho

Lot Essay

Dating from the finest period of Gerhard Richter’s ground-breaking abstract work, Frost (1) is a dazzling example of the artist’s Abstraktes Bild paintings. In these career-defining canvases, Richter examined the fundamental nature of abstract painting, questioning the very essence of the postwar art historical canon, and in the process creating some of the most celebrated works of the last fifty years. The present work is one of a number of paintings the artist completed in 1989 whose title evokes the theme of winter. First shown at a major exhibition at the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, in 1989, the painting exemplifies Richter’s practice of continually laying down and then subsequently scraping off layers of paint with a squeegee, resulting in a fractured surface which evokes the alluring effect of light reflecting off a heavily frosted or snowy surface. A suite of four similar canvases, each titled Eis (Ice), and painted the same year as the present work, is now in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The surface of Frost (1) is full of the dynamic painterly activity that has distinguished the latter part of Richter’s career. By laying down multiple layers of pigment and—just as they begin to dry—dragging a large plastic hard-edged squeegee across the surface, Richter disrupts the composition, opening up the surface to reveal traces of previous layers. From light to dark, and from high-keyed primary colors through to delicate variations of more subtle combinations, the painting becomes a bejeweled combination of both color and energy. Frost (1) is particularly notable in this regard as it encompasses the entire color spectrum; from the depth of the dark recesses to the brightness of the whites, and the bursts of fiery reds and sapphire blues, the infinitely subtle shifts of color are remarkable for their richness and complexity.

This particular canvas was painted in 1989, during a period when Richter’s Abstraktes Bild became more complex, and therefore more beautiful. Prior to this date the gestures in his abstract canvases were more rudimentary, and the interventions on the painted surface more straightforward, but beginning in 1987 the artist began to introduce more complex, delicate, and all-over movements into his work. This resulted in canvas like Frost (1) in which the broad swathes and large passages of color have been replaced by a myriad bursts of pigment mimicking the dazzling effect of looking at light reflected off a frosted surface.

This unique approach to painting is Richter’s direct response to the fundamental question about the function of painting in the age of mechanical reproduction. Looking back on the creation of his abstract pictures, Richter stated, "I had the hope, carried by a fresh wind, to make something free, clear, open, crystal, visible, transparent, a utopia" (G. Richter, quoted in R. Storr, Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, exh. cat., New York., 2002, p. 305). He embarked on a search for pictorial form that would go beyond what he could already fathom, and therefore beyond any preconceived composition. Using a kaleidoscopic array of pure colors was central to this enterprise, as they conveyed a sense of artifice rather than any identifiable subject.

“Abstract paintings,” Richter argued, “visualize a reality, which we can neither see nor describe but which we may nevertheless conclude exists. We attach negative names to this reality; the unknown, the ungraspable, the infinite, and for thousands of years we have depicted in terms of substitute images like heaven and hell, gods and devils. With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can neither be seen nor understood because abstract painting illustrates with the greatest clarity, that is to say, with all the means at the disposal of art, 'nothing'... [in abstract paintings] we allow ourselves to see the un-seeable, that which has never before been seen and indeed is not visible” (G. Richter quoted in J. Fineberg, Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being, London, 2000, p. 374).

Frost (1) is a rich visual spectacle of vibrant pigments coalesced through Richter’s own unique process. Painterly manifestation of the artist's belief in art as mankind's "highest form of hope," his paintings adhere to no known logic or ideology but are created through a careful cumulative and constructive process during which Richter deliberately avoids all conventional rules of aesthetics in order to arrive at work that belies pictorial ideology. “And if now I think of Mondrian, in which picture can partly be interpreted as models of society, I can also see my abstracts as metaphors in their own right, pictures that are about a possibility of social coexistence. Looked at in this way, all that I am trying to do in each picture is to bring together the most disparate and mutually contradictory elements, alive and viable, in the greatest possible freedom” (G. Richter and B. Buchloh, in ibid., p. 33).

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