Gerhard Richter’s “Eisberg” (1982)

Thursday, February 2, 2017
Gerhard Richter’s “Eisberg” (1982)

One of the finest landscape paintings of Gerhard Richter’s career will come to auction for the first time in March 2017 at Sotheby’s London Evening sale of Contemporary Art.

Gerhard Richter’s “Eisberg” (1982)

One of the finest landscape paintings of Gerhard Richter’s career will come to auction for the first time in March 2017 at Sotheby’s London Evening sale of Contemporary Art.

The desolately beautiful Eisberg was painted soon after the artist’s divorce from his first wife Ema in 1981. Gerhard and Ema had been married for 25 years, but by the early 1980s Richter was living with Isa Genzken, a successful young artist. In the words of his biographer, Dietmar Elger, Eisberg was created as an attempt "to work through his unfulfilled hope for familial happiness and to take final stock of a difficult period in his life."

The frozen seascape, with its perfectly balanced spectrum of icy, arctic hues, is widely considered a metaphor for Richter’s state of mind at the time, and perhaps even as a meditative allusion to selfportraiture.

The dramatic composition is based on photographs taken by the artist a decade earlier, when he embarked on an Arctic expedition to photograph Greenland in 1972 during a troubled patch in his marriage. The journey provided a psychological retreat from his life in Dusseldorf, and was to be the catalyst for some of the most powerful images of his career.

"The project was…an excuse for getting away... Trouble in my marriage was reaching a climax. Going into the ice could be interpreted as longing for a place where one feels safe – just so long as there is no life, only ice." – Gerhard Richter

Estimated at £8-12 million, Eisberg is the largest of only three Iceberg paintings made by Richter. The second work is held in the prestigious collection of Doris and Donald Fisher that is promised to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A third work, Eis (1981) sold at Sotheby’s London in February 2012 for £4.3 million ($6.75 million).

Gerhard Richter, Eisberg (1982). Courtesy Sotheby's.

Eisberg has remained in the same Private European collection since 1983, the year after it was painted. 

Image on top: Gerhard Richter, Eisberg, 1982, Oil on canvas, 100.5 by 151 cm “I felt like painting something beautiful” – Gerhard Richter, 1998

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