Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Gerhard Richter
B. 1932
signed, dated 1979 and numbered 445/1 on the reverse 
oil on canvas
42.5 by 40 cm. 16 3/4 by 15 in.
Lire le rapport d'état Lire le rapport d'état


Galerie Konrad Fischer, Zurich
Private Collection, Switzerland
Thence by descent to the present owner


New York, Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery, Gerhard Richter, February - March 1980, n.p., illustrated


Exh. Cat., Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Gerhard Richter, Abstrakte Bilder 1976 bis 1981, 1982, p. 30, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Description Düsseldorf (and travelling), Gerhard Richter: Bilder/Paintings 1962-1985, 1986, p. 219, illustrated in an unfinished state
Exh. Cat., Bonn, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Gerhard Richter. Werkübersicht / Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1993, Vol. III, n.p., no. 445-1, illustrated in colour
Dietmar Elger, Ed., Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Rasionné 1976-1987, Vol. 3, Ostfildern 2013, p. 148, no. 445-1, illustrated in colour


Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bilder represent one of the most significant and extensive strands of the artist’s practice, spanning multiple decades and witnessing a great deal of technical innovation. Beginning in the late 1970s, Richter’s initial abstract output encompassed a series of sophisticated paintings executed on an intimate scale. Painted in 1979, Abstraktes Bild is an important and early work of art that exudes movement, depth and spontaneity. Richter describes the way in which his early abstract paintings “allowed me to do what I had never let myself do; put something down at random. And then, of course, I realised that it never can be random. It was all a way of opening a door for me” (Gerhard Richter cited in: Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London 1995, pp. 215-16). The present work perfectly embodies Richter’s interrogations of order and chaos, its composition delicately poised between the two.

The artist’s method for creating Abstraktes Bild is embracing a technique of building up layers of paint, with the goal to create a newly complex surface. As each stage of the painting is completed, a new degree of abstraction was adopted; from the smooth layer of the foreground to the final applications of thick impasto. Describing his method at this time, Richter explains, “A picture like this is painted in different layers, separated by intervals of time. The first layer mostly represents the background, which has a photographic, illusionistic look to it, though done without using a photograph. This first, smooth, soft-edged paint surface is like a finished picture; but after a while I decide that I understand it or have seen enough of it, and in the next stage of painting I partly destroy it, partly add to it; and so it goes on at intervals, till there is nothing more to do and the picture is finished” (Ibid., p. 112).

Richter’s utterly extraordinary and pioneering art of abstraction stands as the ultimate culmination of the heroic journey of his career, during which he has endlessly questioned the limits of representation, the nature of perception, and the operations of visual understanding. Abstraktes Bild is both compelling, mysterious and a timeless image that, in decades to come, will be still be yielding new readings.

Contemporary Art Day Auction