Portrait Schniewind. 1965. Oil on canvas. Catalog raisonné of paintings 42-1. Elger 42-1. Verso signed, dated, titled and inscribed. 120 x 88 cm (47.2 x 34.6 in). This portrait of the well-known sports officer and art collector Willy Schniewind was made at the suggestion of the acknowledged Düsseldorf gallery owner Alfred Schmela, who showed Gerhard Richter's first solo show at his premises on Hunsrückenstraße 16-18 from September 9 to 30,1964. Richter's black and white photo pictures from the 1960s, as well as his large-size "Abstract Pictures", are the internationally most sought-after works by the German star painter. The sale of this work here is likely to be one of the last opportunities to buy a work from this significant early portrait series of the artist.
PROVENANCE: Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf. Fänn and Willy Schniewind, Neviges/Düsseldorf (acquired directly from the artist). Private collection USA (inherited from aforementioned).
LITERATURE: J. Harten, K.H. Hering, D. Honisch, et al (editor), Gerhard Richter: Bilder 1962-1985, Ex. cat., Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1986, p. 359. D. Elger (editor), Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. 74. D. Elger, M. Roth, E.M. Stange (editor), Gerhard Richter. Porträt Dr. Knobloch 1964, Berlin 2009, illu. p. 20. "The collector Willy Schniewind was portrayed by Richter on three occasions. This work here clearly is the most impressive motif." Dietmar Elger, Director of the Gerhard Richter Archive Dresden "I think a painter doesn't need to see nor know the model, nothing of its >soul<, nature or character, must find expression. [..] Painting a portrait on basis of a photo is also much better, because, well, you never paint a specific person, but just a picture [..]" Gerhard Richter, 1966 quote from: Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter, Maler, Cologne 2018, p. 93.
Richter's sought-after early black-and-white works from the 1960s, which, in addition to the "abstract pictures" starting in 1976, have a significant impact on our present conception of Gerhard Richter's painterly work, are based on photographic models. Family photos, illustrations from advertisements and various other print media are the basis for Richter's portraits and cityscapes of these years. Richter's larger-sized motifs are "painted" in the wet color, dissolving their contours into soft black-and-white modulations. In the paintings from the early 1960s, Richter worked in his famous painterly blur for the first time, which would henceforth become his artistic trademark. The delicately blurred portrait of the Rhineland-based businessman and renowned art collector Willy Schniewind is part of a small series of portraits that Richter created at the suggestion of the legendary Düsseldorf gallery owner Alfred Schmela in context of his first solo exhibition in September 1964. The series, which initially only comprised eight portraits, started out with three portraits in 1964. They show Alfred Schmela and were made after passport photos and vernissage pictures intended to serve as a kind of sample for potential customers of the gallery. The first version of ‘Portrait Schmela‘ (Elger 37-1) was auctioned at Sotheby's London in 2015 for the equivalent of more than 4.6 million euros. Another version (Elger 37-3) became part of the collection of the Kunstsammlungen Nordrhein-Westfalen (Art Collections North Rhine-Westphalia) in summer 2014 in context of a much celebrated million-dollar donation from the art historian Viktoria von Flemming. The ‘Portait Willy Schniewind‘ is one of the first two portrait commissions that were executed right after the three portraits of Alfred Schmela had been made. Apart from two versions of "Portrait Dr. Knobloch", that is the Krefeld gynecologist Dr. Gisela Knobloch, of which one was acquired by the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden in 2009 and the other, according to the catalog raisonné´, presumably was destroyed, Richter created a total of 3 versions of the "Portrait Schniewind". A version that also was part of the acclaimed private art collection of Fänn and Willy Schniewind was sold into a private collection by Sotheby's London in 2010 for the equivalent of 1,433 million euro. The third version was originally in the collection of the ZERO artist Günther Uecker. Today it is part of the famous Fisher Collection, one of the largest private collections of American and German art from after 1960, in the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. Since the majority of this portrait series, which is so important for Richter's early period fo creation, is already in possession of renowned public collections or international private collections, the second version of "Portrait Schniewind" offered here is probably one of the last chances to acquire a work from this important early portrait series by Gerhard Richter. The portrait, which was posibly made after private photo material of the art collector, has a narrow white upper margin and thus resembles an informal snapshot from a passport photo machine. Richter once more delivers proof of his sophisticated technique: By employing different types of brushes, some used to apply the paint in pastose manner and other really fine ones, with which Richter achieved the subtle black and white color values so typical of his early work, Richter created finest transitions and a technically perfect and entirely homogenous image surface: "I blur everything, make everything the same and equally important. I blur so that it does not look artistic, but it's technical, smooth, and perfect. I blur so that all parts move a little closer together. Maybe I also wipe to erase all the unimportant information. " (Gerhard Richter, Notizen 1964/65, quote after: Gerhard Richter, Text, Cologne 2008, p. 33). [JS]