GERHARD RICHTER | Philodendron



signed and dated 67 on the reverse
oil on canvas
31½ by 36⅛ in. 80 by 92 cm.

Price Available Upon Request

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Collection of Dr. Manfred Leve, Nuremberg (acquired directly from the artist in 1967)
Jablonka Galerie, Cologne
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Gerhard Richter: Billede efter billede, February - May 2005, p. 23, illustrated in color
St. Moritz, Paracelsus Building, St. Moritz Art Masters: A Look into the Universe of Gerhard Richter, August 2009, illustrated (cover)
San Francisco, Berggruen Gallery, The Human Form, January - March 2017, pl. 27, p. 66, illustrated in color
San Francisco, Berggruen Gallery, Botánica, July - August 2017

Exh. Cat., Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (and traveling), Gerhard Richter: Bilder/Paintings 1962-1985, August - September 1986, no. 145-3, p. 62, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Bonn, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Gerhard Richter. Werkübersicht/Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, vol. III, 1993, no. 145-3, illustrated
Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1968, vol. 1 (nos. 1-198), Ostfildern, 2011, no. 145-3, p. 302, illustrated in color

With its characteristically blurred surface and elegant delicacy of monochrome grey hues, Philodendron is a stunning paradigm of Gerhard Richter's Photo Paintings. Both its tonal topography and technical distinction epitomize the artist’s overarching ambition to present the viewer with a new perspective of reality, highlighting his ongoing investigation into human perception and the validity of the painted image. Defiling the traditional process of portraiture by painting from a photograph instead of real life, Richter sought to imbue his paintings with the objectivity and legitimacy generally associated with the photographic medium. As said: “A portrait must not express anything of the sitter’s ‘soul’, essence or character. For this reason, among others, it is far better to paint a portrait from a photograph, because no one can ever paint a specific person” (Gerhard Richter cited in: Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago 2009, p. 74).

Between 1962 and 1968, Richter pursued a portrait practice based exclusively on media-derived and family photographs. Seeking to explore the ambiguity that exists between the alleged objectivity of a photograph and the inherent artifice of painting, he chose to use photographic source material rather than paint from life. He aspired to imbue his paintings with the impartial and factual documentation inherent to photography, to convey an image free from predisposed interpretation, assumption and individual artistic expression. With a paradigmatic blurring of contours and drained of color, the portraits exemplify Richter’s deliberate choice of a monochrome palette, attributed to the objective subtlety of the color grey. As said by the artist, “grey is the welcome and only possible equivalent for indifference, non-commitment, absence of opinion, absence of shape” (Gerhard Richter cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art (and travelling), Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, 2003, p. 62).

The subtly faded contours of the present work leave the sitter slightly out of focus. The source image for many of Richter’s photo-realist paintings can be found among the photos in Atlas, the artist’s picture archive used as his inspiration and sources, now in the collection of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich. In Philodendron, a well-dressed woman is proudly showcasing her impressive botanical achievement – the extraordinary Philodendron plant, a tropical species native to the South American rainforests. This work conceptually pivots on the painterly reproduction of photographic verisimilitude, particularly attendant to the artlessness of the amateur snapshot. This iconic image is used multiple times by the artist, including in Frau Niepenberg formerly in the collection of the Fernley Astrup Museum.

As an appreciation to the artist, the Met Breuer in New York has organized a major loan exhibition for this year 2020, showcasing over 100 works within Richter’s six decade-long career. A carefully curated group of exceptional works by the artist, the show seeks to confront Richter’s exploration in the dual means of representation and abstraction, through his diverse investigation in the material, conceptual and historical approach to painting. On behalf of the forthcoming show, said by Max Hollein, the Director of the Met, “Gerhard Richter is one of the greatest artists of our time, and this momentous exhibition will present an incisive overview of his astonishingly diverse and deeply compelling practice. In Richter’s work we can see a powerful reckoning with history and memory—on both collective and personal terms—and a demonstration of the ways that art can affect perception and challenge our perspectives. This show is sure to be a remarkable tour de force.” (Max Hollein cited in: New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gerhard Richter: Painting After All, online) Included in this show are Richter’s important photorealistic paintings from the 1960s, such as his iconic Uncle Rudi from 1963, as well as Family at the Seaside (1964), Mr. Heyde (1965), Group of People (1965) and Kitchen Chair (1965). With their carefully blurred surface and exemplary grey-scale, these works oscillate between figuration and abstraction, confronting the artist’s main objective in exploring the dualities and dichotomies of the painted medium with the transcendent paradigm of photo-paintings. Philodendron, exceptional on account of its early date and executed during such a crucial time in the artist’s career, carries an ethereal beauty and an underlying intellectual rigor, the very effect of the artist’s influence on the re-definition of contemporary and conceptual painting to date.

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