Hände

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Bernd Lutze, Friedrichshafen
    Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne
    Private Collection, Cologne
    Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
    Acquired from the above by the late owner in July 1994

  • Exhibited

    Friedrichshafen, Galerie Bernd Lutze, Gerhard Richter: Bilder und Druckgraphik 1962-1978. Teil II, 16 March - 26 May 1979
    Friedrichshafen, Galerie Bernd Lutze, Gerhard Richter: Bilder und Druckgraphik 1962-1978. Teil I, 9 May - 23 June 1979

  • Literature

    Gerhard Richter 36. Biennale di Venezia, exh. cat., German Pavilion, 1972, no. 12, p. 37
    1945-1985: Kunst in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, exh. cat., Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 1985, p. 248
    Gerhard Richter: Bilder Paintings 1962-1985, exh. cat., Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Nationalgalerie Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz; Kunsthalle Bern; Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst/Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, 1986, no. 12, pp. 6, 357 (illustrated, p. 6)
    Benjamin Buchloh, ed., Gerhard Richter Werkübersicht Catalogue raisonné 1962-1993, vol. III, Ostfildern-Ruit, 1993, no. 12, pp. 7, 148 (illustrated, p. 7)
    Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, nos. 1-198, 1962-1968, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2011, no. 12, p. 68 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Hände, Gerhard Richter’s characteristically blurred composition, is a striking early epitome of the artist’s iconic and technically astute photo realist paintings of the 1960s. Synthesising photography and painting, through his graceful grey hues and use of sfumato, Richter presents a new perspective on perception and the validity of visual representation. The present work captures the allegorical nature of an ephemeral moment in time and anticipates the artist’s large-scale photo paintings and abstract works such as Onkel Rudi (Lidice Collection, Lidice) and Grau (Museum Wiesbaden).

    Having fled East Germany, in 1961 Richter enrolled at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf where he was exposed to strands of pre-and post-war western modernism. Following his move from the East, Richter’s marked change in style, from Social Realism and towards photo realistic painting, saw the artist working on increasingly abstract compositions such as Tisch, 1962 (Harvard Art Museum, Boston) and Wunde 16, 1962. This transition culminated in 1962, when Richter ‘started to paint like crazy, from figurative to abstract.' He notes 'after a year, I put it all on a bonfire in the courtyard of the academy…I felt the work had to be burned because people were already taking things and paintings were starting to circulate. I had to prevent that because I realized it was time to start from scratch. Photographs were the way forward’ (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Michael Kimmelman, ‘Gerhard Richter: An Artist Beyond Isms’, New York Times Magazine, 27 January 2002, p. 44).

    In Dusseldorf, surrounded by the originality and dialogue of fellow co-founders of the Capitalist Realist movement, namely Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg (later Konrad Fischer), Manfred Kuttner, Joseph Beuys and the artists of the confrontational Fluxus movement, Richter was engrossed with provocative narratives. ‘It [Fluxus] inspired me to try out some real nonsense, like copying photographs in oil paint’ (Gerhard Richter and Dorothea Dietrich, 'Gerhard Richter. An Interview', in The Print Collector’s Newsletter, September/October, 1985).

    Thus, between 1962 and 1968 Richter became concerned with a pursuing practice centred around photographic source imagery. Working from pre-existing images, in 1962 Richter painted his prominent canvas, Tisch, which he placed first in his catalogue raisonné. This painting began as an accurate reproduction of a Gardella table from Domus magazine; Richter 'was dissatisfied with the result and pasted parts of it over with newspaper...then suddenly it acquired a quality which appealed to me and I felt it should be left that way, without knowing why' (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, London, 2009, p. 259). A collision between the figurative ground and the abstract motif, Tisch precedes the artist’s later abstract compositions and is exemplary of the artist's characteristically critical approach to creation and the interrogation of photography within his practice.

    An intimate portrait or an appropriated image, in Hände Richter presents the viewer with two blurred, unidentified hands. Considered one of the oldest motifs in the history of art, both as a central tool to creation and as a focus of representation, Richter confronts the onlooker with the most familiar of themes. Recalling the motif central to German printmaker, painter and theorist Albrecht Dürer’s Praying Hands, a singular icon in the sphere of Western art, the present work is meticulously executed. Both works, executed over 500 years apart, are intensified and heightened through the artist’s use of a monotone palette, the white pigment allowing each set of hands to glow with translucence. More recently, in the realm of American Conceptual artist Bruce Nauman’s creative sphere, disembodied hands frozen in various positions have continued the dialogue with the expressive potential of Dürer’s motif. Here, however, Richter projects the recognisable silhouette into a seemingly unreachable distance or illusion. Through blurring the surface of the hands in tones of grey blue, the artist assumes the image and instils it with meaning; extracting the anatomical subject from its generic type, the composition is particularised.

    The quasi-transparent plane, rendered in grisaille, is reminiscent of a photographic negative. Evocative of early chemical photographic processes, the image fades into the ground; the blurriness not representing the inadequacy of the technical process but rather the tool through which the artist highlights the space between an image of reality and reality itself. ‘I can make no statement about reality clearer than my own relationship to reality; and this has a great deal to do with imprecision, uncertainty, transience, incompleteness, or whatever’ (Gerhard Richter und Rolf Schön, 'Unser Mann in Venedig', in Deutsche Zeitung, 14 April 1972, p. 13).

    Painted when photography was a crucial political tool, used to spin ideological fictions into truths in East and Western Germany, Richter critically examines the power of both painting and photography, using the power of photographic imagery to expose the fissures between ideology and reality. Capturing the contradictions inherent in Cold War imagery, Richter unveils how documented images can mean everything and nothing at the same time. Interrogating the tension between photography and the painted image, Richter observes ‘Photos were regarded as the truth, paintings as artificial. The painted picture was no longer credible; its representation froze into immobility, because it was not authentic but invented…a photograph is the most perfect picture. It does not change; it is absolute, and therefore autonomous, unconditional, devoid of style’ (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Gerhard Richter Texts, Writings, Interviews and Letters, 1961 - 2007, New York, 2009, p. 30). Moving a dry brush across the surface of his wet painted canvas, Richter clouds the surface and instils the work with a certain anonymity and enigma, forging a void between photography, reality and painting.

    Commenting on the significance of his limited palette throughout the 1960s Richter notes: ‘it was more unusual, back then, to create black-and-white oil paintings, and more real, because all the newspapers, the daily diet of photographic material, including television, was black and white…That's why it imbued a sense of reality into painting that represented something completely new...black-and-white photography has managed to retain a unique quality; the F.A.Z. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung] still uses black-and-white photographs, even if the majority would probably prefer them to be in colour’ (Gerhard Richter, 'Interview with Babette Richter, 2002', Gerhard Richter Texts, Writings, Interviews and Letters, 1961 – 2007, London, 2009, p. 442).

    Having encountered Pop Art in 1961, Richter described Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol’s work as ‘extremely inartistic’ comic adaptions, emphasising the importance of de-familiarising and reworking the photographic motif when rendering it in paint. Departing from his earlier critique, however, in 1963 Richter specifically underlined the ‘un-artistic’ character of his new paintings, recognising the artistic quality of Lichtenstein and Warhol’s work (Gerhard Richter and Irmeline Lebeer, 'Gerhard Richer ou La réalité de l’image' in Chroniques de l’art vivant, February 1972). Evocative of Warhol’s synthesis of figurative and abstract painting, seen in Icebox , 1961 (Menil Collection, Houston) and Water Heater, 1961 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), in the present work Richter subtly and elegantly blurs the distinction between painting and graphic photographic representation ‘Warhol showed me this modern way of letting details disappear, or at least he validated its possibilities’ (Gerhard Richter and Robert Storr, 'Interview with Gerhard Richter', Gerhard Richter. Forty Years of Painting, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002, p. 295). Further discussing the influence of Pop Art, the artist notes ‘…I am pursuing something which in a certain way resembles the most recent movement: Pop art’ (Gerhard Richter in an unpublished letter to Helmut and Elrika Heinze, 10 March 1963, Gerhard Richter Archive, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden).

    Addressing the contemporaneous perception that painting had suffered a loss of relevance amidst the rise of modern photography, Hände shares qualities with photography whilst maintaining the potency of the painted image. Together with his abstract works of the 1970s, Richter’s photo paintings are considered some of the most fundamental contributions to the canon of art history. Forming the basis for his later abstract work, based upon the abstraction of photographic detail, Richter foregrounds photography’s inherent equivocality. Richter’s Hände is an allegorical synthesises of the painted and the photographic image, astutely recreating a photograph whilst leaving the painterly process at the foreground of the composition. Intensifying the tension between the two mediums, reality and fiction, figuration and abstraction, in the present composition Richter’s central motif becomes the discrepancy between reality itself and the illusion of this reality - as we perceive and replicate it.

  • Artist Bio

    Gerhard Richter

    German • 1932

    One of the most influential living painters, 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’s oeuvre oscillates between unorthodoxy and realism, much to the delight of institutions and the market alike.  

     

    From his career start in 1962, Richter developed both his photorealist and abstracted languages side-by-side, producing voraciously and evolving his artistic style in rapid intervals. Many of Richter's paintings find themselves in the permanent collections of the world's most revered museums. 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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Ο10

A Tale of Two Cities: Property from the Estate of Howard Karshan

Hände

signed, numbered and dated '12 Richter 63' on the reverse
oil on canvas, in artist's frame
30.9 x 45.9 cm (12 1/8 x 18 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1963.

Estimate
£2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

sold for £2,049,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 hhighley@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2018