Gerhard Richter (B. 1932)
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Gerhard Richter (B. 1932)

Grau (Grey)

Gerhard Richter (B. 1932)
Grau (Grey)
signed, numbered and dated 'Nr. 334/5 Richter 72/73' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
98 3/8 x 78 7/8in. (250 x 200.3cm.)
Painted in 1972-73
Galerie Liliane & Michel Durand-Dessert, Paris.
Liliane & Michel Durand-Dessert Collection, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1988.
B. Buchloch (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Werkübersicht/Catalogue raisonné 1962-1993, Osterfilden-Ruit 1993, vol. III, no. 334-5 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Gerhard Richter. Bilder Paintings 1962-1985, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, Stätische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1986 (illustrated, p. 159).
Munich, Stätische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Gerhard Richter, 1973. Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Europe in the Seventies: Aspects of Recent Art, 1977-1979. This exhibition later travelled to Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Smithsonian Institution; San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art; Fort Worth, Forth Worth Art Museum and Cincinnati, Contemporary Arts Center.
Rochechouart, Musée départemental d'art contemporain de Rochechouart, Le Regard du Dormeur (The Gaze of the Sleeper), 1987.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.



'When I first painted a number of canvasses in grey all over, I did so 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. Destitution became a constructive statement; it became relative perfection, beauty and therefore painting' (G. Richter quoted in 'From a Letter to Edy de Wilde, 23 February 1975', D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. 219).

Executed in 1972-1973, Grau (Grey) is an early, large-scale monochrome by Gerhard Richter, carried out shortly after his celebrated exhibition of the 48 Portraits at the Venice Biennale. Anticipating the freely improvised coloured abstraction that has since become Richter's hallmark, Grau marks a conceptual turning point in the artist's practice. Eschewing figuration and what he felt was the 'emotional weight of subject matter' (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. 209). Richter, like his American counterpart Robert Ryman, began to focus on the application of paint and the practice of painting. In Grau, the surface of the work has a lustrous graphite tone, traces of the artist's gestural brushwork evident across the richly textured surface of the painting. As D. Elger has observed, 'it is precisely in this stripping away of artistry that the painterly qualities achieve a lasting effect' (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. 209)

Richter first employed grisaille painting at the very start of his career, using it to create his hyperreal photo-paintings. It was not until 1968 however, that Richter began to experiment with grey for the purposes of abstraction, painting over failed canvases and dissolving the figurative into the monochrome. As he explained, 'the grey is certainly inspired by the photo-paintings, and, of course, it's related to the fact that I think grey is an important colour - the ideal colour for indifference, fence-sitting, keeping quiet, despair. In other words, for states of being and situations that affect one, and for which one would like to find a visual expression' (G. Richter interview with J. Thorn-Prikker, Gerhard Richter: Text, Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London, 2009, p. 478).

From 1972-1976, Richter carried out a series of works including the grey inpaintings, red-blue-yellow inpaintings, the colour charts and the grey monochromes. Together they can be understood as a conceptual unit. The difference in appearance between each of the series however, belies the closeness of their conception. As Mark Godfrey has suggested, in these works 'Richter asked how painting could be made without treating colour as a compositional element, and how the practice of painting could continue without subjective content' (M. Godfrey, 'Damaged Landscapes', Gerhard Richter: Panorama, p. 86). Made during a period when the virtues of painting were being deeply tested, Richter was creating a compelling argument in favour of its conceptual possibilities.