For more than five decades Richter has continually reinvented the terms by which painting has been relevant to a continually transforming audience, and very few artists working today have inspired veneration as he has done. Considered the master painter of our generation, Richter follows a lineage of masters from da Vinci and Michelangelo to Rembrandt, Turner, Monet, and Rothko, all of whom have been celebrated as preeminent within their successive eras. In the artist’s retrospective exhibition Gerhard Richter: Panorama in London, Berlin, and Paris between 2011 and 2012, more than one million visitors attended the travelling retrospective exhibition.
Entwurf für Grund is a magnificent example of Richter’s experimentation with new methods of painting and artistic creation. Completed in 1978, the painting is created at the dawn of the decade in which the artist’s highly celebrated series of abstract paintings are made, and one of the first ever works in which the artist utilized a squeegee. Across the primed vastness of this composition Richter streaked and smeared passages of semi-liquid material with the great traction and drag of a hard-edged spatula, fusing and dissecting wide tracts of oil paint. Highly textured, the layers of reds and blues are caught in a perpetually-dynamic stasis as they blend harmoniously. The medium’s underlying fluidity and malleability allows the artist to create a powerful sense of depth through the pronounced chromatic contrast. What is near and what is far become indefinite and our eye is forced to constantly readjust to attempt to comprehend the picture plane which has been transformed from a flat surface into an infinity of space beyond.
Considering the phenomenal visual impact of the present work, one easily calls to mind the impressionist paintings of Monet such as Impression: Sunrise from 1872. Amidst the blue expanses of Entwurf für Grund, the essential atmosphere and spirit, radical innovation, and supreme disposition of color found in the French master’s rendition of water and sky are evoked. In this context it is instructive to consider a contemporary description of Monet’s Nymphéas by the essayist Jean-Louis Vaudoyer, which though penned in 1909 prophetically foreshadows Richter’s painting executed approximately seventy years later: "Water that is pale blue and dark blue, water like liquid gold, treacherous green water reflects the sky…Here, more than ever before, painting approached music and poetry. There is in these paintings an inner beauty that is both plastic and ideal." (Jean-Louis Vaudoyer in La Chronique des Arts et de la Curiosité, 15th May 1909, p. 159, translated from French)
Today the sheer scope and diversity of Richter’s artistic achievement is now well-recognized throughout the world. His abstract paintings from the 1980s and early 90s reside in collections of virtually all major museums throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C, the Tate Modern in London, the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the Duisburg Modern Art Museum and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. This corpus of abstract paintings has often been considered as the culmination and crescendo of his artistic exploration pursued throughout his career.
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