Gerhard
Richter

Gerhard Richter challenges painting conventions, producing a diverse artistic output, from abstraction to photorealism and photography. If you’re looking for original Gerhard Richter prints and editions for sale or would like to sell, request a complimentary valuation and browse our network’s most in-demand works.

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Biography

Unrestrained by any one visual style, German artist Gerhard Richter’s art spans abstraction to photorealism, glasswork to photography. Richter’s eclectic work is rich in varied media, from his famous reproductions of both banal and historic photography to his sheer panes of glass and church windows.

Born in 1932 in Dresden, Richter’s upbringing was shaped by the war and death that surrounded him. Though originally trained in the strict Socialist-Realist style, it is perhaps unsurprising that he would go on to produce work that advocates for the death of painting.

After the war, Richter was based in East Germany, where he studied mural painting at the Dresden Art Academy from 1951. Later, after a spell in Moscow, he decided to defect to West Germany, where he made a living building carnival floats and painting theatre sets, before studying at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. It was here that he began his art career in earnest.

After some initial disappointments, Richter’s career began to take off in the mid-1960s and 1970s, when he started using photographs from magazines and newspapers to inspire his paintings. These works that established him as a notable artist and led to exhibitions across Germany in 1964 and 1965. Moving into the 21st century, Richter became increasingly focused on abstraction, transparency, narrative, and a return to the bold colours of his early career. He revisited the medium of glass to blur the lines between wall-based art and sculpture, in series such as Eight Grey, works such as Pane of Glass (2002), and in commissioned stained-glass windows.

In 2005, Richter released a painting based on a photograph of the attacks on the World Trade Center of 11th September 2001. He deliberately erased the point of impact and left it up to the viewer’s knowledge to fill in the narrative. This idea of narrative is key to all of his later abstract works; Richter’s paintings give an indication of the story, and the reader creates the rest.

To this day, Richter is one of the most recognised artists of the 20th century. Richter’s art has been presented in exhibitions all over the world. In 1993-94, the first retrospective of Richter’s work travelled through Bonn, Stockholm, Madrid, and Paris; and, in 2002, to mark the 70th anniversary of Richter’s career, a second was held at the MoMA in New York. Since 2010, many more exhibitions have been held at prestigious galleries across the globe, including Wako Works of Art in Tokyo, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and The Drawing Center in New York.

Abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, depicting abstract smears of green, blue, red and yellow paint.

Image © Sotheby's / Abstraktes Bild © Gerhard Richter 1986

1. £30.4M for Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild (1986)

When Abstraktes Bild (1986) sold for £30,389,000 at Sotheby's London in 2015, it set the record for highest sale price achieved by a living European artist. The painting soared above its £14–£20million estimate.

Richter created the piece by heavily layering oil paints on canvas and then dragging excess paint away using a wooden board and a homemade wooden squeegee. The artwork was known for being one of Richter’s personal favourites, which added to its collectability. It is also one of Richter’s largest abstract works, measuring 9ft 10in by 8ft 2in.

Abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, featuring smears of red, mustard yellow, navy blue, lemon yellow and mid-green.

Image © Christie's / Abstraktes Bild © Gerhard Richter 1994

2. £29.6M for Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild (1994)

Despite the vast array of subjects his art touches upon, Richter confessed to being fond of painting abstract canvases, which are renowned for their use of colour and depiction of movement. The same fondness for colourful abstraction seems to be also true for Richter’s collectors, as several artworks from his Abstrakte Bilder collection fetched some of highest prices of all his artworks.

Such was the case for Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (1994). On 10 May 2022 at Christies New York, the painting sold for a staggering US$36,500,000 (£29,646,394), securing its position as Richter's second highest sale price to date.

Painting by Gerhard Richter covering two panels, featuring abstract forms in red, yellow, black, blue, and white, which trace the artist's movement in the production of the artwork.

Image © Sotheby's / Abstraktes Bild (636) © Gerhard Richter 1987

3. £27.9M for Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild (636) (1987)

Richter's 1987 Abstraktes Bild, composed of two brightly coloured panels joined together, stands as a quintessential example of his most celebrated series. It is among the mere five pieces by Richter of its substantial size, over 102 by 157 inches, still held privately. Having sold for $32million in November 2018, the artwork appreciated in value by 8.75%, commanding a staggering $34.8million at Phillips New York in November 2023.

This painting's exceptional exhibition history underscores its pivotal role in the artist's body of work. Initially presented at Durand-Dessert in Paris in 1988, it subsequently featured in the esteemed Carnegie International, underscoring the piece's quintessential representation of Richter’s work from the 1980s, a decade considered to be the zenith of his career.

Abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, depicting abstract forms in red, blue, crimson, yellow, green and grey. These shapes trace the artist's movement during the production of the artwork.

Image © Sotheby's / A B, Still © Gerhard Richter 1986