Guggenheim in Bilbao awash in Gerhard Richter’s Seascapes

Gerhard Richter Seascape [Seestück], 1998, oil on canvas 290 x 290 cm, Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa © Gerhard Richter, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2019

BILBAO, Spain – Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) worked on his Seascapes Series from the end of the 1960s up until 1998 and an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will be the first to present a broad variety of these works. In this series Richter presents a reflection on both nature and visual perception. The works take influence from traditional sources, such as the melancholic and moody landscapes of German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774 -1840), and rely on snapshots taken by Richter while he was traveling.

Over the course of three decades, Richter created seascapes in different formats, colors, and styles: from abstract seascapes in which the horizon can barely be made out to those in which the photographic realism of the sky is only nuanced by an ambiguous light. Shrouded in clouds or totally still, his skies occupy much of the canvas in his seascapes and are only occasionally eclipsed by the sea.

Richter seeks to create the perfect image and draws from the sky and the sea at different times in an illusory composition in which perspective and light manage to ensnare the viewer. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Gerhard Richter. Seascapes, a unique chance to view the largest set of his celebrated seascapes ever assembled to date. Richter’s seascapes are not mere depictions of nature. On the one hand, they challenge the viewer’s perception by painting in a way that resembles photography. Richter manages to achieve an extraordinarily smooth surface by applying highly diluted pigment, and blurs the image, as happens in some snapshots. On the other hand, Richter embellishes the landscape in his quest for perfection: In some works, the sky and the sea actually come from two different images that he fuses, becoming almost interchangeable and thus leaving the viewer to identify each of them.

The exhibition runs May 23 through Sept. 9.