Lot 151
  • 151

GERHARD RICHTER | Abstraktes Bild

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Gerhard Richter
  • Abstraktes Bild
  • signed, dated 1992, numbered 754-2 and variously inscribed on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 52 by 62 cm. 20 1/2 by 24 3/8 in.


Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Private Collection, United States
Christie’s, New York, 9 November 2005, Lot 353
Private Collection, Berlin
Villa Griesbach, Berlin, 8 June 2007, Lot 95
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Exh. Cat., Bonn, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, Vol. III, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, n.p., no. 754-2, illustrated
Dietmar Elger, Ed., Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1988-1994, Vol. 4, Ostfildern 2015, p. 424, no. 754-2, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is lighter and brighter 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

Evoking an uncanny hinterland somehow half-remembered, half-dreamt – a strange, otherworldly landscape of shimmering grey skies, dark horizons, diaphanous greens and redemptive tan colour – Abstraktes Bild is a masterful exploration of the interactions between the raw materials of painting and illusionistic space. Part of the extraordinary series of the same name, itself begun in 1976 by this unparalleled giant of post-war painters, the present work chromatically recalls the haptic swirls of grey paint in the genesis of Gerhard Richter’s abstract work: his Tisch of 1962. In both Tisch and Abstraktes Bild, innumerable textures and palimpsests result from multiple methods of paint application. Building up cumulative layers of non-representational impasto, Richter begins with large brush strokes of primary colour onto canvas. His method is profoundly and irreducibly incidental: the decisions about which forms and hues will be added to the canvas, and when, are determined by a recurring and serendipitous dialogue between the ever-changing states of both painter and work. Alternately blurring and scouring the canvas to veil or expose prior layers, Richter creates for the viewer an investigable visual narrative in which erasure, expansion and reaction are engaged in constant entropic exchange.

If it is tempting to propose a dichotomy between the non-representationality of the Abstraktes Bild series and the realism of the Photo Paintings, the artist himself, as well as esteemed critics such as Dietmar Elger, warn against this distinction: “experience has proved that there is no difference between a so-called realist painting – of a landscape, for example – and an abstract painting” (Gerhard Richter in conversation with Irmeline Lebeer in: Dietmer Elger and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Gerhard Richter: Text, Writing, Interviews, and Letters, 1961- 2007, London 2009, p. 83). In Richter’s metaphysics, by contrast, painting sets the parameters of its own reality. As the artist puts it, “later you realise that you can’t represent reality at all – that what you make represents nothing but itself, and therefore is itself reality” (Gerhard Richter in conversation with Rolf Schön, in: Ibid., p. 59). Paradoxically, the beguiling world of neither dusk nor dawn encapsulated by the present work is thus dissolved in the very act of its configuration.

In the mid-1980s, Richter began using the homemade squeegee to scrape large bands of antecedently applied paint off his canvases, and in the 1990s, he first used this tool to create the distinctive vertical columns structurally essential to the present work. Resembling walls of wooden planks, or the tree trunks of an obscure forest into the depths of which the viewer has been transported, the columns have become an important motif in Richter’s abstractions. In his combination of surreal palettes and spaceless sheets of colour with the traces of his own hand, Richter reifies painting itself to a sui generis truth. Moving beyond conventional understandings of figuration and abstraction, the series posits a painterly practice whose truth is hermetically sealed within the boundaries of the picture. If the viewer’s resultant experience is numinous, indeed verging on religious, this is not by design; Richter’s series simultaneously enacts a sustained and subversive negation of the sacred image space espoused by Abstract Expressionist painters like Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. 

Richter’s consummately deft use of colour in the present work is in part attributable to the extensive enquiry he carried out into its science by means of the Colour Chart Paintings. As early as 1966, Richter was producing paintings based on colour charts; using coloured rectangles as found objects in apparently limitless varieties of hues. There is a plausible sense in which the Abstraktes Bild incorporate an incredible, hand-wrought synthesis of these investigations into colour, and the ethereal slippages resulting from the photolithography, screenprints and collotypes of the Photo Paintings.