Gerhard Richter - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • Gerhard Richter’s Ophelia, alike Guildenstern (lot 148), is a rhomboid photographic work that captures a mixture of lacquer, oil paint and water from a 1977 painting by the artist. Ophelia and Guildenstern were originally exhibited under the titles Rhombus I and II respectively, the artist later abandoned these formal titles in favor of Shakespearean names that reflect the drama, poetry and evocative nature of these impressions. Both Ophelia and Guildenstern refer to characters in Hamlet who met ill-fated endings: Ophelia, Hamlet’s lover, was driven to death by madness, while Guildenstern found his fate at the hands of an executioner, after betraying Hamlet by spying on him for the corrupt King Claudius.


    John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851-2, Tate Collection, London. Image: IanDagnall Computing / Alamy Stock Photo

    Although the flowing liquid forms of the compositions are in a sense entirely abstract, there are also poignant connections between the works and their titles. In Ophelia we see the green hues of water lilies and reeds – a nod to John Everett Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite re-imagining of 1851-52 – in which Ophelia lays in macabre tranquility in a shallow river, drowned. The swirling blues, whites and greens of Richter’s Ophelia glide across the surface, floating in and out of focus, evoking the slow-flowing motion of Millais’ hauntingly serene scene. This unnerving serenity contrasts the flaming, bubbling surface of Guildenstern. Meaning “Golden Star” in Danish, this title marries the Danish setting of Hamlet to the image’s formal qualities. Currents of red, yellow and ochre swell together, evoking flames, lava, or the tumultuous surface of a burning planet. The billowing whirls of this blood-red palette aptly allude to the primary themes of Hamlet: murder, madness and revenge. A form of pathetic fallacy, Richter recalls Eugène Delacroix’s renowned depictions of Hamlet, in which dramatic skies set ablaze by the setting sun mirror the play’s powerful, tragic narrative.

    • Provenance

      The artist
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

    • Literature

      Hubertus Butin 96

    • 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


Ophelia (B. 96)

Cibachrome print, flush-mounted between Plexiglas and aluminium board with metal strainer on the reverse (as issued).
116.5 x 102 cm (45 7/8 x 40 1/8 in.)
Signed and numbered 7/35 in black ink on the label affixed to the reverse (there were also 3 artist's proofs in Roman numerals), co-published by Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

Full Cataloguing

£15,000 - 20,000 ♠†

Sold for £12,700

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024