4900 Colours (2007) is composed of 196 panels, each of which consists of 25 squares. Each individual spray-painted enamel square measures 9.7 x 9.7 cm and each panel of 25 squares is supported by Alu-Dibond.
The panels can be arranged in 11 core configurations (each using all 196 panels), ranging from multiple smaller grid combinations of various sizes to just one large-scale work. The 11 variations are presented on this and the following pages.
The order of the coloured squares is based on chance, having been generated randomly by a computer programme. The 11 configurations were selected by Richter and there is no hierarchy among them.
Richter started work on grid paintings as early as 1966, when he reproduced industrial colour charts as used by paint manufacturers. In 1971 the element of chance was introduced into his compositions, with the distribution of colours randomly decided, although there remained a white grid between the colour fields.
Grids comprising a variety of numbers of squares were produced at this time, from 4 Colours (Catalogue Raisonné: 353-1, 1974) to series of works using 1024 and 1025 squares (also 1974) and even as many as 4096 squares in 4096 Colours (CR: 359, 1974). It was in this same year, 1974, that Richter first removed the grid in favour of direct contact between the colours. After an interval of 33 years, Richter returned to grid paintings in 2007.
4900 Colours and the earlier grid paintings have certain formal similarities with Richter’s Cathedral Window (CR: 900), which he designed for the south transept of Cologne Cathedral. The work, which consists of approximately 11,500 squares of glass in 72 colours, was unveiled in 2007 and is based on 4096 Colours (CR: 359). Some of the brightly coloured square panes were arranged randomly, while others were selected in response to the architectural context.