The landscape-format painting depicts a designer table with white plate and dark construction. The upper half of the picture's background is light grey, whereas the lower part is executed in a darker grey. The centre of the image is worked over with paint thinner using circling motions.
In contrast to the neatly painted table, the background was worked on dynamically using different means. Some passages, painted with thin fluid paint, differ from those painted with a pastose application of paint, and the paint appears to have been scraped off in some areas so that the lighter tones of the undercoat are visible; light and dark dashes of paint appear all over the canvas.
Gerhard Richter describes the development of the painting as follows: "The photo for Table came, I think, from an Italian design magazine called Domus. I painted it, but was dissatisfied with the result and pasted parts of it over with newspaper. One can still see by the imprint where the newspaper was stuck to the freshly painted canvas. I was dissatisfied because there was too much paint on the canvas and became less happy with it, so I overpainted it. Then suddenly it acquired a quality which appealed to me and I felt it should be left that way, without knowing why."1 In the painting Table one of Richter's characteristic ways of working is already evident: the critical approach towards his own paintings, which get painted over if they do not satisfy him completely.
Table can be associated with the painting Folding Dryer [CR: 4], which also has an everyday object for a motif and an advertising photograph as its source image. In both cases the chosen motif can be understood as a reflection on magazine advertising in the free-market Federal Republic of Germany, contrasting with Richter's East-German homeland, on which he had turned his back only the previous year.
Whereas the folding dryer was affordable for everyone, the table was a design object by the Italian brand Gardella. From the three images pictured in Domus, Richter chose a view showing the tabletop; the sophisticated construction of the lower part of the table, emphasised in the other images, was seemingly of no interest to him.
Although Table was not his first painting of 1962, Richter saw it as the first in his catalogue raisonné: "I wanted to make a new start after my work in East Germany, but also after the many pictures I had painted in the West, among which were a number of photo-paintings. I wanted to draw a line, indicating that these paintings were in the past, and so set Table at the top of my worklist."2 Table therefore marked a turning point in Richter's œuvre.
The painting started out as a figurative depiction of a table. By partially painting it over, Richter undoes this depictive aspect – an effect similar to the painterly blurring in his later works. The painting thus anticipates another artistic approach that along with figuration would play a role in Richter's œuvre: abstraction.
1 Comments on some works, 1991 in: Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, Thames & Hudson, London, 2009, p. 259.
Notes prepared by editorial team
Christie's, London, UK: 04 December 1996
Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, USA (loan from a private collection)
This artwork was shown in the following exhibitions:
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