Gerhard Richter - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 3, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in September 1992

  • Catalogue Essay

    Gerhard Richter’s Ohne Titel is an impressive example from the artist’s Vermalung (In-painting) series from 1972. The Vermalung series developed in sequence to Richter’s photo‐paintings, having first covered a photorealist image with swirls of grey pigment in Tisch, 1962. Throughout these paintings and in a similar vein to his chance‐based reasoning of the displacement of colours in his colour charts, Richter discarded all premeditated subject matter, composition and colour, creating works of art that almost developed by themselves. As Richter wrote in a letter to Edy de Wilde in February 1975, the grey paintings came about ‘because I did not know what to paint, or what there might be to paint: so wretched a start could lead to nothing meaningful. As time went on, however, I observed differences of quality among the grey surfaces – and also that these betrayed nothing of the destructive motivation that lay behind them. The pictures began to teach me. By generalising a personal dilemma, they resolved it.’ (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Gerhard Richter: Texts, Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961‐2007, London, 2009, p. 91).

    The current example displays Richter’s extraordinary mastery of the brush, distributing varying grey tones of paint in both seemingly infinite, twistingly intricate paths and broad sweeping brushstrokes over the entire canvas. Rather wonderfully we see the physicality of the hand of the artist, dragged diagonally through the paint, partially disrupted by a determined horizontal brushstroke. The fluid interplay between dancing narrower strokes interspersed, and in places interrupted, by broader brushstrokes form a combination of dense thatch and flat planes where there is no fixed point of view. The eye is left to wander over a surface which is alive.

    Richter’s Vermalung technique originated from his landscape series; thick impasto was applied to create the branches of trees and foliage, subsequently delineating and obfuscating the image beneath. Moving away from the photographic source of his previous works, ‘in‐painting’ signified a painterly response by the artist to explore the opportunities that resulted from his own method of painting. Richter would cover his canvases by merging the black and white pigments in a pattern of looping interwoven and meandering brushstrokes, uniting the tones in a single monochrome colour. Richter spoke of his technique, writing that he 'applied the paint in evenly spaced patches, or blobs, on the canvas. Not following any system at all, there were black and white blobs of paint, which I joined up with a brush until there was no bare canvas left uncovered and all the colour patches were joined up and merged into grey. I just stopped when this was done.' (Gerhard Richter, quoted in Chris Jenks, ed., Visual Culture, London, 1995, p. 135).

    The colour that Gerhard Richter arrived at, whilst seemingly monotone, is more complex than initially deemed. The variating thickness of the built-up impasto, juxtaposed with thinner areas of paint application where the white of the canvas is visible beneath, organically influences the blended grey tone. The naturally occurring fluidly and intuitively painted lines blend and re‐blend at a variety of different points, all combining to form a deception ‐ that of a speciously and uniformly grey canvas.

    Within Howard and Linda Karshan’s collection, where the importance of mark making is so prevalent amongst the rich collection of drawing, Richter’s Ohne Titel exemplifies Howard’s fascination with line and the tangibility of the artist’s hand.

  • 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. 

    View More Works

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


Ohne Titel

signed and dated 'Richter, 1972' lower right; further signed, titled and dated 'Richter, 1972 Richter, 1972 "Ohne Titel"' on the reverse
oil on card laid on canvas
61.5 x 86 cm (24 1/4 x 33 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1972, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Gerhard Richter Archiv, Dresden

£180,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £150,000

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 October 2018