This is a digital pastel image created on a blank canvas and inspired by the most expensive photograph in the world, Rhein II by Andreas Gursky. It fascinates me that Mr. Gursky’s photoshopped image was able to command such a staggering sale price and my digital composition pays homage to his great skill. I am indebted to my wife, Michelle, for aiding me with pastel technique and allowing me to bridge the real and digital worlds to create a digital pastel image from scratch using the free image software, GIMP.
Background to the original work
Rhein II is a photographic image created by German visual artist Andreas Gursky in 1999. In 2011, a print was auctioned for $4.3 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. (Although Peter Lik has reportedly sold an image entitled “Phantom” for $6.5 million in December 2014 this sale has not yet been verified).
The photograph was produced as part of a series of six depicting the River Rhine. In this image, of the second of the series, the Rhine flows horizontally across the field of view, between green fields, under an overcast sky.
Gursky digitally manipulated the original photograph to remove passersby and a factory building stating that “Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ, a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river.” Gursky produced a very large chromogenic colour print of the photograph, mounted it onto acrylic glass, and then placed it in a frame. The image itself measures 73 by 143 inches (190 cm x 360 cm).
The print was originally acquired by the Galerie Monika Sprueth in Cologne, and subsequently bought by an anonymous German collector. The collector sold the print by auction at Christie’s New York on 8 November 2011, for $4,338,500 to an anonymous buyer.
The work has been described by arts writer Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph as a “vibrant, beautiful and memorable – I should say unforgettable – contemporary twist on […] the romantic landscape” and by journalist Maev Kennedy in The Guardian as “a sludgy image of the grey Rhine under grey skies”.
Either way I thought it would be ironic to create a digital painting of this photograph in a retro-homage to this great artwork.