Gerhard Richter - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Offering a rare glimpse into Gerhard Richter’s creative process, Hyänen, 1968, is a testament to the German artist’s trailblazing oeuvre. A year following his receipt of the New Western Artists Prize in 1967 and just four years before he would represent Germany at the 36th Venice Biennale in 1972, this work was created at a pivotal moment in the artist’s illustrious career. It is both related to and entirely independent from the artist’s renowned photo-paintings of the 1960s composed of oil on canvas. In the present work, we bear witness to the genius of Richter’s intentional marks rendered in charcoal on primed canvas. What we see is a thoughtful composition which, while representational in nature, is both an extension of the blurred grey 1960s masterworks as well as a precursor to the Abstrakte Bilder that would come to define the mature part of his career. This work was originally acquired directly from the artist by German art historian and notable collector Professor Carl Vogel, author of the first edition of Sigmar Polke’s catalogue raisonné and known for his prominent collection of works by both Richter and Polke. Hyänen is the first work of its kind to come to auction in over a decade. 


    Gerhard Richter, Dusseldorf, 1971. Image: bpk Bildagentur / Angelika Platen / Art Resource, NY

    The Origins of Richter’s Drawing Practice 


    Hyänen depicts two identical hyenas barking into the sky, based on a reproduction of a photograph projected twice onto canvas.i The importance of photography as a reference point began while Richter was an art student in Dresden. At school, Richter had a “fractured relationship” with drawing. Unable to sketch from live models, he recalls how he drew a bathing scene from a reference image, feeling guilty given that he was academically trained.ii Years later, Richter would begin to rely on such photographs as jumping off points for his most successful works. Instead of being ashamed of this process, he fully embraced it. By 1967, Richter did his first image projection onto a large sheet of paper, and a year later, he used the same process for the present work, among a handful of others, rendered instead with charcoal on canvas. The subject matter of these works included mountains, seascapes and even portraits, such as Zeichnung Bischofberger (Drawing Bischofberger), held in the personal collection of the famed dealer, which depicts Daniel Spoerri, Bruno Bischofberger and Eric Dietman.iii


    Dieter Schwarz describes Richter’s canvas drawings, with specific reference to Hyänen in the artist’s catalogue raisonné of drawings: “ could regard the preparatory drawings on gessoed canvas from 1968-1969, which Richter left as independent drawings instead of covering them with paint, as a reaction to [artists such as Walter] De Maria’s radical elimination of an actual drawing. Although these motifs – mountains, clouds, and seascapes – would certainly have been suitable for pictures, Richter valued them for their surprisingly realized, almost abstract appearance, which he could not have achieved through painterly means... For the pictorial drawings, he principally used extraneous pictorial material... in Hyenas... he used the projection of the same animal twice because the picture seemed to him empty, which in contrast to the landscape, rendered in brief crosshatchings, leads to an alienation otherwise scarcely encountered in Richter’s work.”iv

  • "The photograph is the most perfect picture. It does not change; it is absolute, and therefore autonomous, unconditional, devoid of style. Both in its way of informing, and in what it informs of, it is my source."
    —Gerhard Richter, 1964-1965
    His decision to leave these drawings on canvas without overpainting is a prime example of Richter’s desire to break with conventional modes of image making and combat the contemporaneous critique that “painting is dead.” The result is a work that, even more so than the oil photo-paintings from the same decade, uniquely illustrates the artist's masterful relationship with photography. The composition is framed by a wide border, as if Richter himself is focusing, zooming and cropping the image. This aesthetic decision calls attention to the fact that the work originated with a photograph, and that the artist has transferred not only the imagery from the photograph, but also its imperfections. Of his photo-based paintings, Richter stated, “All that interests me is the gray areas, the passages and tonal sequences, the pictorial spaces, overlaps and interlockings. If I had any way of abandoning the object as the bearer of this structure, I would immediately start painting abstracts.” In this statement, Richter emphasized his preference for the abstract over the representational, in turn foreshadowing the future of his practice, with the Abstrakte Bilder of the later part of the 20th century. v


    i Dieter Schwarz, Gerhard Richter Drawings 1964-1999 Catalogue Raisonné, Dusseldorf, 1999, p. 18.
    ii Ibid., p. 8.
    iii Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné Nos. 1-198, Volume 1, 1962-1968, Ostfildern, 2011, no. 197-3, p. 396.
    iv Dieter Schwarz, Gerhard Richter Drawings 1964-1999 Catalogue Raisonné, Dusseldorf, 1999, pp. 17-18.
    v Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné Nos. 1-198, Volume 1, 1962-1968, Ostfildern, 2011, p. 19.

    • Provenance

      Vogel Collection, Hamburg (acquired directly from the artist)
      Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg, December 3, 2004, lot 352
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Deutsche Zeichnungen der Gegenwart, Kunsthalle Bielefeld; Kunstverein Oslo; Hamburg, Griffelkunst; Osnabrück, Kulturgeschichtliches Museum, German Contemporary Drawings, March 18, 1973–1974, p. 56 (illustrated)
      Kunstmuseum Winterthur; Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum; Tilburg, Collection De Pont Museum, Gerhard Richter: Drawings and Watercolours 1964–1999, September 4, 1999–October 8, 2000

    • Literature

      Dieter Schwarz, ed., Gerhard Richter: Drawings 1964-1999. Catalogue Raisonné, Düsseldorf, 1999, no. 68/12, pp. 55, 197 (illustrated)
      Dietmar Elger and Hans Ulrich Obrist, eds., Gerhard Richter: Text 1961 to 2007, Cologne, 2008, p. 76 (detail illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Gerhard Richter

      German • 1932

      Powerhouse painter Gerhard Richter has been a key player in defining the formal and ideological agenda for painting in contemporary art. His instantaneously recognizable canvases literally and figuratively blur the lines of representation and abstraction. Uninterested in classification, Richter skates between unorthodoxy and realism, much to the delight of institutions and the market alike. 

      Richter's color palette of potent hues is all substance and "no style," in the artist's own words. From career start in 1962, Richter developed both his photorealist and abstracted languages side-by-side, producing voraciously and evolving his artistic style in short intervals. Richter's illusory paintings find themselves on the walls of the world's most revered museums—for instance, London’s Tate Modern displays the Cage (1) – (6), 2006 paintings that were named after experimental composer John Cage and that inspired the balletic 'Rambert Event' hosted by Phillips Berkeley Square in 2016. 

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Property from an Important German Collection



signed and dated "Richter, 1967" on the reverse
charcoal on canvas
39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. (100 x 100 cm)
Executed circa 1967-1968.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $453,600

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 November 2022