Lot 12
  • 12

Gerhard Richter

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 GBP
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  • Gerhard Richter
  • Abstraktes Bild
  • signed, dated 1997 and numbered 845-3 on the reverse
  • oil on Alu Dibond
  • 100 by 90cm.; 39 3/8 by 35 1/2 in.


Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1998



Venice, Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte, XLVII La Biennale di Venezia, Future, Present, Past, 1997

London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Gerhard Richter, 1998, p. 99, no. 845-3, illustrated in colour


Armin Zweite, Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1993-2004, Dusseldorf 2005, n.p., no. 845-3, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the yellow is slightly stronger in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings from the 1990s undeniably stand among the greatest works of his career; painted in 1997, Abstraktes Bild (845-3) is no exception to this rule. Simultaneously revealing and concealing exquisite chromatic layers, this painting bespeaks Richter’s mastery of the squeegee method, an approach to creating non-referential pure abstractions taken up with full force in 1980 and continued in practice for over twenty years. Painted for the XLVII Venice Biennale alongside counterpart works from the group of seven designated 845, the present work signals a development in Richter’s working process. The pioneering use of Alu Dibond, a composite comprising a polyurethane core sandwiched between two sheets of aluminium, here imparts a fluid aesthetic and heightened chromatic intensity. The fine striation and vibrato shuttering of intense yellow pigment is a remarkable painterly effect furnished by the sheer aluminium surface. Echoing the formal brilliance of such large scale masterpieces as Abstraktes Bild (809-3) in the Artists Rooms Collection of the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland, the present work delivers a condensed virtuosity to parallel the spectacular compositions of Richter’s monumental paintings on canvas.

Gerhard Richter has dedicated a life’s worth of artistic intent to ‘paint like a camera’. Since his breakthrough during the early 1960s with the renowned series of spectacularly verisimilar yet blurred paintings of black and white photographs, Richter has ceaselessly sought new ways to extend the legitimacy and veracity of the painted image. Herein, the Abstrakte Bilder represent the very furthest point in Richter’s practice: the realisation of an abstraction that echoes the automated immediacy of a photograph. By wielding a squeegee as the principle creative tool, Richter pioneered a dialogue with chance that weights the decisions of the painter and physics of exertion against the reactivity of materials. The ensuing results have imparted some of the most arresting and chromatically spectacular abstract compositions of the late Twentieth and early Twenty First Centuries.

Implementing remarkable knowledge of his craft, Richter has carefully and meditatively created the Abstrakte Bilder. Strained through muslin, agglomerations and clumps of pigment are eradicated from large vats of oil paint to ensure an absolutely smooth application and manipulation by the squeegee. A base coat of the carefully refined paint is applied with a large brush after which Richter applies further paint to the surface or directly onto the squeegee which is then dragged across the picture plane. Comprising a length of flexible Perspex fitted with a handle, the squeegee is the tool through which the slick laminas of oil paint and compositional permutations are attained. Depending on the drying time of the pigment used and the degree of distinction desired between painterly layers, Richter leaves the work in progress for an amount of time before instigating the next sweep and accretion of paint. Several works are created in this way at once in the studio; moving from one painting to the next, Richter systematically analyses and scrutinises each stage in a painting’s execution, until a compositional resolution or chromatic counterpoint presents itself.

By vivisecting the canon of abstraction with the deliberation of a forensic scientist, Richter invites a wavering dialogue between an intimation of "something on a higher plane" whilst un-picking its claims to metaphysical truth (Gerhard Richter in conversation with Nicholas Serota in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Modern, Gerhard Richter: Panorama, 2011, p. 19). Simultaneously invoking yet eschewing an abstract expressionistic reading, Richter has forged a practice of pure painting distanced from a gestural imperative yet removed from reliance upon a pre-existing source. Richter's calculated yet chaotic layering of colour and compositional administering of paint accretions repudiates premeditation. Rather, Richter's actions and critical Yes/No judgements invite a compelling visual dialogue with chance and indeterminacy to echo the way in which a photograph impassively reproduces appearance. As is evidenced in the present work, Richter powerfully and deliberately wields a suspension between accident and facture to impart a canon of abstraction, which at its very core, harbours a photographic driving force.