How can artists respond to the pressures generated by an age of photography and of ubiquitous imagery accredited almost no material value, an age in which craft has nearly vanished? I argue that Gerhard Richter and Norman Ackroyd each in his own way generate a particular freedom with respect to history (including the history of art) by negotiating an artworld in which abstraction and representation have no stable mutual hierarchy, in which the sublime and the picturesque may coexist. Leonardo long before discovered elements of both in his experience of landscape. Different as they might appear (painting versus aquatint; luxury versus affordable), Richter’s and Ackroyd’s works each establish a kind of art object that is not only postaura but also disdains the claims of uniqueness and of the immediately, thoroughly autograph: authentic, not self-expressive works of art that involve handwork even as they invoke mechanisms of replication. They renew the sublime via varieties of blankness adjusted for a world of dauntingly vast information resources.

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