A signed photographic print by German artist Gerhard Richter, Kanarische Landschaften I-e was issued in an edition of 1001 in 1971. Part of the artist’s Canaries Landscapes series, its source image depicts the wild, volcanic landscape of the Canary Islands by way of the sophisticated, transfer-based printing technique of heliogravure.
This piece is a stunning example of Richter’s early forays into both landscape painting and colour. Emblematic of his smooth, highly-detailed ‘blurring’ effect, it bears similarities to the expansive, naturalistic images that accompany it, such as Kanarische Landscahften I - a and Kanarische Landschaften II -f, both completed in the same year. Ambitious in its remit, the image depicts the landscape of the Canary Islands as seen from a plane window, or a viewpoint - an aerial point of vision that recalls other works, such as Schweizer Alpen I - B3 (1969) or Bridge 14 Feb 45 (III) (2000). This latter piece references the allied bombing of Richter’s hometown on the same date. In addition, Richter’s realist treatment of cloud formations recalls Wolke (Cloud), produced just several years earlier.
Movement and travel has always been at the heart of Richter’s life, professional career, and artistic practice. In 1961, Richter made the bold move from Dresden - then in former communist East Germany - to the West German city of Düsseldorf. Recounting his life in Dresden, where he studied ‘socialist realist’ painting at the Dresden Academy, Richter once said: ‘it was terrible there; not only ‘unfree’, it was really terrible’. Able to visit West Berlin twice a year, Richter was shocked by the vibrant visual and artistic cultures that existed outside of the Soviet sphere of influence; films and exhibitions, such as the famous The Family Of Man exhibition organised by Edward Steichen of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), were a revelation for Richter. The photographic basis of this particular exhibition had a profound impact on the young artist, who before then ‘knew only paintings’. The impact of photography on Richter is achingly present in Kanarische Landschaften I - e thanks to its constant reference to the ‘perfect’ and technological photographic image.