Guggenheim Bilbao offers new perspectives on Gerhard Richter’s seascapes

Gerhard Richter Seascape Green-grey cloudy, 1969
Seascape (Green-grey, cloudy) [Seetück] (grüngrau, bewolkt), 1969.
(Image credit: © Gerhard Richter, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2019)

The largest collection of Gerhard Richter seascapes ever to be displayed is on view from today at Guggenheim Bilbao. The renowned German painter – widely regarded as one of the most important living artists – is celebrated for his masterfully various oeuvre, that contains both sweeping abstractions and meticulous photorealism.

In a world that has already seen myriad Richter retrospectives, here, close attention is paid to the artist's decades-long fascination with the sea, and so offering a new – if narrow – perspective, despite the artist's vast history with solo museum exhibitions.

Richter Seascape 1998

Seascape [Seetück], 1998.

(Image credit: © Gerhard Richter, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2019)

Richter worked on the Seascapes series from the late 1960s up until 1998, when he produced his finale Seascape (Seestück) – a vast, almost 3 sq m oil canvas, that affixes a tumultuous sea with a peaceful sky. As the exhibition communicates, within this 30-year period Richter’s brush moved with the waves, dancing between moments of melancholy and upbeat vacation snapshots. He once defined these works as ‘absent of opinion’. Instead, they’re philosophical musings on perception; and art's ability to represent the natural world effectively.

As the French photographer Gustave le Grey did 100 years prior, Richter often knitted together two different photographs, in which to base his painting from. He would collage an image of the sky with an image of the sea, glued at the horizon in an illusory composition. They possess the kind of photographic realism early Richter became famous for, but they’re recreating a landscape that never existed, forecasting his later abstract work.

Gerhard Richter Seascapes exhibition at Guggenheim Bilbao

Seascape (grey) [Seetück (grau)], 1969. 

(Image credit: © Gerhard Richter, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2019)


‘Gerhard Richter: Seascapes’ is on view until 9 September. For more information, visit the Guggenheim Bilbao website


Guggenheim Bilbao
Abandoibarra Etorb 2
48009 Bilbao


Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.