Gerhard Richter’s 1986 painting, A.B. Courbet, is a noteworthy work of art due to its distinctive style and lack of representational imagery. Measuring 118 1/8 x 98 3/8 inches, the canvas features thick brushstrokes and monochromatic color in shades of gray and black. Despite its apparent abstraction, the title of the painting references French realist painter Gustave Courbet.
A.B. Courbet has been recognized as one of Richter’s most successful works for its bold experimentation with texture and form. Typically associated with photorealistic paintings, this work shifted Richter’s practice from capturing realism to creating non-referential compositions that rely on texture for depth and meaning.
In November 2013, A.B. Courbet was sold at auction for a price significantly above estimates – an impressive indicator of the painting’s enduring significance in contemporary art history. Today it remains an iconic example of abstract expressionism within Richter’s larger body of work, which spans over six decades.
It is fascinating how Gerhard Richter’s experimentation went beyond his comfort zone with A.B. Courbet; far away from photorealistic paintings he typically produced before that time period. The composition’s lack of recognizable imagery or subject matter leaves interpretation free-form to viewers who may look upon it as a visual experience rather than intellectual discourse on meaning.