Gerhard Richter - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, October 14, 2021 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • 'I’ve always been fascinated by abstraction. It’s so mysterious, like an unknown land.' —Gerhard RichterCreated in 1981, Abstrakt 474-1 powerfully encapsulates Gerhard Richter’s early engagement with abstraction within his painterly practice. A central passage of dazzling yellow extends across the canvas, offset by icy blue fields that melt to reveal bruised purple beneath. The compelling atmospheric quality of the painting, fostered through the chromatic and textural juxtapositions that constitute its composition, is evocative of Mark Rothko’s meditative canvases. An early example of the German artist’s celebrated Abstract Pictures, an ongoing series commenced in the late 1970s, the present work expresses Richter’s conviction that ‘painting is the making of an analogy for something nonvisual and incomprehensible: giving it form and bringing it within reach’.i Through his abstract works he depicts ‘scenarios, surroundings or landscapes that don’t exist’, but that when expressed through paint visualise ‘somewhere you can’t go, something you can’t touch’.ii


    Mark Rothko, Yellow and Blue (Yellow, Blue on Orange), 1955, oil on canvas. Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art. © 2021. Album/Scala, Florence © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko ARS, NY and DACS, London 2021

    Richter’s innovative use of the squeegee is widely recognised as one of his most significant contributions to the art historical traditions of painting. The surface of Abstrakt 474-1 evidences the artist’s early employment of the tool. While a brush is used to build layers of paint, the squeegee enacts a process of removal as viscous material is pushed across the surface of the work and paint lifted from the canvas. In the present work, the yellow paint is removed in places using the plastic head of the instrument to reveal flashes of lavender and rich earth tones. In his celebrated abstract works of the 1990s, the entire painted surface of the work is often treated with an enlarged custom-made squeegee to create blurred lines that perambulate across the canvas. In contrast, earlier works such as Abstrakt 474-1 demonstrate a sparing use of the tool to provide occasional accents within the wider composition. The evolution of the technique across Richter’s artmaking career highlights his ongoing commitment to developing his painterly practice which has asserted his reputation as one of the most significant artists working today.

     'I’m still very sure that painting is one of the most basic human capacities, like dancing and singing, that makes sense, that stay with us, as something human.'
    —Gerhard Richter 
    Abstrakt 474-1, like many of Richter’s paintings in the series to which the work belongs, echoes the visual vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism. The kinetic brushstrokes and energetic sweeps of bold pigment recall the lyrical freedom of Willem de Kooning, one of the key artists at the forefront of the earlier movement. Yet, in contrast to the gestural dynamism encapsulated by the Action Painting particularly associated with Abstract Expressionism through the studio practice of Jackson Pollock, Richter’s painting process is famously laborious. He works slowly and with calculated precision, often allowing months to elapse between the addition of each new layer to a painting. The deliberate nature of his artmaking is driven by the German artist’s desire to transcend harmonies of colour, composition, and form. Through his Abstract Pictures he strives, instead, to produce work that is ‘multicoloured and complicated’, reflecting his understanding of the complexities of contemporary life.iii


    Willem de Kooning, Merritt Parkway, 1959, oil on canvas. © Detroit Institute of Arts / Gift of W. Hawkins Ferry / Bridgeman Images © The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London 2021

    The Abstract Pictures are often placed in diametric opposition to the representational paintings with which the artist first established his international reputation in the 1960s and 1970s. However, for Richter, the two emerge from the same set of guiding principles: ‘The Abstract Pictures are no less arbitrary than all object-bound representations (based on any old motif, which is supposed to turn into a picture). The only difference is that in these the ‘motif’ evolves only during the process of painting’.iv As powerfully demonstrated by Abstrakt 474-1, whereas the subject-matter of the representational works is established ahead of the painting process, the Abstract Pictures emerge through the process of their creation, reinvigorating Richter’s deliberate painterly practice with a compelling creative spontaneity.


    Gerhard Richter demonstrates his innovative use of the squeegee in his recent abstract paintings. 


    Collector's Digest


    •    The most extensive exhibition of Richter’s drawings ever to be shown in the UK is currently on display at the Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space until 12 December 2021.


    •    A significant survey of the artist’s work is currently on show at the Museum of Fine Arts – Hungarian National Gallery until 14 November 2021.


    •    The abstract Cage paintings were on view this summer at Gagosian’s New York gallery space (19 April-26 June).


    i Gerhard Richter, quoted in Hans-Ulrich Obrist, ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Paintings. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London, 1995, p. 99
    ii Gerhard Richter, quoted in Gerhard Richter: Panorama, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2011, p. 19
    iii Gerhard Richter: Abstrakte Bilder 1976 bis 1981, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 1981, p. 21
    iv Gerhard Richter, quoted in Hans-Ulrich Obrist, ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Paintings. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London, 1995, p. 123

    • Provenance

      Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples
      Galerie Guy Pieters, Deurle
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Kunsthalle Bielefeld; Mannheim, Mannheimer Kunstverein, Gerhard Richter. Abstrakte Bilder 1976 - 1981, 10 January - 16 May 1982, p. 64
      Naples, Galleria Lucio Amelio, Gerhard Richter, March 1983

    • Literature

      Gerhard Richter. Bilder Paintings 1962 - 1985, exh. cat., Stadische Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, 1986, p. 394 (illustrated, p. 246)
      Gerhard Richter. Catalogue Raisonné 1962 - 1993, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, 1993, vol. III, no. 474-1 (illustrated)
      Gerhard Richter, Panorama, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2012, p. 135
      Dietmar Elger, ed., Gerhard Richter Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, nos. 389-651-2, 1976-1987, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2013, no. 474-1, p. 233 (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. 

      View More Works


Abstrakt 474-1

signed, partially titled and dated '474-1 Richter 1981' on the reverse
oil on canvas
70.5 x 100.4 cm (27 3/4 x 39 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1981.

Full Cataloguing

£450,000 - 550,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £809,000

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 October 2021