© Gerhard Richter 2023 (26082023), Photo: David Pinzer, courtesy Gerhard Richter Archiv

A. Lange & Söhne and Dresden State Art Collections: The Importance of Craftsmanship – Gerhard Richter

Reading Time: 4 minutes

As part of the partnership with the Dresden State Art Collections (SKD), which has been in place since 2006, A. Lange & Söhne is supporting the exhibition “Gerhard Richter. Overpainted Photographs” by the Gerhard Richter Archive. With this presentation, which will run from 26 August to 19 November 2023, the Saxon manufacture is paying tribute for the first time ever to the work of a contemporary artist who also comes from Dresden.

Gerhard Richter; 8. June 2016 (8), 2016; oil on colour photography; 16.75 x 12.6 cm; on loan from the Gerhard Richter Art Foundation; © Gerhard Richter 2023 (26082023)
Gerhard Richter, 8. Juni 2016 (8), 2016, Öl auf Farbfotografie, 16,75 x 12,6 cm

People, landscapes and cityscapes – partly hidden by colours, shapes and lines: The “Overpainted Photographs” by Gerhard Richter demand the careful and patient observation of the viewer, as they take a unique approach to Richter’s central artistic theme: the dialogue between the figurative and the abstract. The series of works, created between 1989 and 2017, is based on what appear to be snapshots which the Dresden-born artist first had enlarged into approximately 10 x 15-centimetre prints before using a squeegee with left-over paint from his work on large-format canvases to add texture. The result: An exciting interplay between the narrative nature of the photograph and the abstract character of the applied paint. By removing the imagery from its context, a contrast between illusionistic images and abstract structures can be created on just a small canvas, inviting us to question what we see and to fill it with our own assumptions. “It is precisely on these small, Overpainted Photographs that Gerhard Richter manages to capture the theme of illusion in an astonishing way,”[1] says Dietmar Elger, director of the archive. “The group of works confirms Gerhard Richter’s scepticism towards our perception of reality. Here, the abstract colour structures destroy the holistic image of the photographic image in the same way that in other works the idea of abstraction as an illusion proves to be true.”[2]

Gerhard Richter, 29. April 2015, 2015, Öl auf Farbfotografie, 16,7 x 12,6 cm

Appreciated by collectors but rather disregarded by the field of fine art, the Dresden exhibition “Gerhard Richter. Overpainted Photographs” is only the second museum exhibition dedicated to this almost unknown but no less fascinating selection of works produced by one of the most important and influential contemporary painters. Of the 72 works on display, 36 are from the holdings of the Gerhard Richter Art Foundation, and a further 36 are on loan from private collections. From 26 August to 19 November 2023, art enthusiasts will be able to admire a fascinating selection of overpainted photographs – which for a long time went largely unnoticed by the public – at the Albertinum in Dresden. Born in Dresden in 1932 and having studied painting here before fleeing to West Germany in 1961 to reinvent himself at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, the carefully curated exhibition provides interesting insights into one of the chapters from the artist’s six-decade-long career.

Gerhard Richter, 15. April 2015, 2015, Öl auf Farbfotografie, 11,3 x 16,6 cm

Despite the unique reputation Gerhard Richter holds on the national and international art scene, he has always remained closely linked to his hometown. After the Elbe floods in 2002, the painter, who, like Ferdinand Adolph Lange, is one of Dresden’s most famous sons, donated the painting “Fels (694)” to the Dresden State Art Collection to support the reconstruction of the institution. Two years later he gave 32 works on permanent loan to the Albertinum, which opened the Gerhard Richter Rooms. Among Richter’s fondest memories is his training at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, which, he recalls in a 2006 interview, “was entirely out-dated” yet he remains convinced of its value to this day: “the artisanal training allowed us to gain an appreciation for materials, while the drawing and painting training that used nature as an inspiration was invaluable for the development of vision”.[3] The idea that exceptional craftsmanship can only be achieved through hard work is indisputable to him. It goes without saying that you have to master your profession, Gerhard Richter adds.[4]

Gerhard Richter, 4.12.06, 2006, Öl auf Farbfotografie, 12,5 x 16,6 cm

Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of Lange, recognises similarities between Gerhard Richter’s philosophy and the art of watchmaking and corporate culture practised at A. Lange & Söhne: “whether in painting or fine watchmaking – the most important requirement for the creation of inspiring and technically demanding works of art is an excellent education. For over 25 years, we have made it our mission to train young talent to become watchmakers in-house in order to ensure that the craft, which is firmly rooted in Saxon history, will continue into the future,” says Schmid. “As a manufacture steeped in tradition, the preservation of German cultural heritage is very important to us. We are therefore proud to be able to support the Dresden State Art Collections in this special exhibition dedicated to an outstanding painter who was born in Dresden and who has devoted his entire life to art. Once again, the Museum Association is fulfilling its mission to highlight Dresden’s reputation as a city that offers world-class art and culture. The partnership with A. Lange & Söhne, which has existed since 2006 – the year in which the Gerhard Richter Archiv was established -, is also based on this commitment.

Gerhard Richter, 8. Juni 2016 (6), 2016, Öl auf Farbfotografie, 16,9 x 12,7 cm

“I am delighted that the watch manufacture A. Lange & Söhne is supporting the exhibition of my “Overpainted Photos” in Dresden,” emphasises Gerhard Richter. “We both share a close and special relationship with the Saxon capital and the Dresden State Art Collections.” 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.