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Gerhard Richter

German Painter

Gerhard Richter Photo
Born: February 9, 1932
Dresden, Germany
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What I'm attempting in each picture is nothing other than this...to bring together in a living and viable way, the most different and the most contradictory elements in the greatest possible freedom.
Gerhard Richter Signature

Summary of Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter is a German painter who originally trained in a realist style and later developed an appreciation for the more progressive work of his American and European contemporaries. Richter increasingly employed his own painting as a means for exploring how images that appear to capture "truth" often prove, on extended viewing, far less objective, or unsure in meaning, than originally assumed. The other common themes in his work are the elements of chance, and the play between realism and abstraction. Working alongside but never fully embracing a quick succession of late-20th-century art movements, such as Abstract Expressionism, American/British Pop art, Minimalism, and Conceptualism, Richter has absorbed many of their ideas while remaining skeptical of all grand artistic and philosophical credos.

Key Ideas

Biography of Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter Life and Legacy

Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 in Dresden, Germany, during the rise of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, or the Nazi Third Reich. Notably, some of Richter's relatives were directly involved in the Nazi movement, namely his father, a schoolteacher, and an uncle. Richter's mother, the daughter of a concert pianist, encouraged her son's early talent for draftsmanship. In 1948, at the age of 16, Richter quit his formal education and took up an apprenticeship as a set painter for the theater. The wake of war proved traumatic for Richter: two of his uncles had been killed in action, and his father had lost his employment. This family turmoil, coupled with the artist's early artistic training under postwar communist-driven ideology, eventually led Richter to seek his creative inspiration in nature over any political or religious affairs or philosophies.

Important Art by Gerhard Richter

Mund(Mouth)(Brigitte Bardot's Lips) (1963)

Mund(Mouth)(Brigitte Bardot's Lips) (1963)

Mund is one of Richter's first paintings completed from a photograph. The painting is sexually suggestive, depicting Brigitte Bardot's open mouth adorned with red lipstick. Blurred flesh tones hint at Richter's painting process, beginning with a realist rendering and incorporating rollers, squeegees, and dry brush techniques to mask the surface. The work suggests the artist viewing reality from a detached perspective, as he resists any moment of clear focus on the overall image.

Farbschlieren (Color Streaks) (1968)

Farbschlieren (Color Streaks) (1968)

In this example of one of his early grey paintings, Richter allows structure and color to compose the "picture." The painting is void of figuration and recognizable imagery, revealing Richter's indifference toward any "model" as serving as his subject matter. Richter employs thick brushstrokes and monochromatic color, thus sweeping across the canvas in a fluid, entirely fused motion. This powerful gesture suggests a consideration of how abstract forms may well serve as a painter's subject just as effectively, for their visual or optical interest, as any photographic or "realistic" scene derived from nature, or the "everyday world" around us.

1024 Farben(1024 Colors) (1973)

1024 Farben(1024 Colors) (1973)

Richter employs a systematic approach to the canvas in his color-chart-based painting 1024 Farben (1024 Colors). Superficially reminiscent of the neo-Dadaist, 1950s "Hard Edge" abstraction of Ellsworth Kelly, Richter chooses here to systematically paint squares of colors based on the predetermined structure of the color wheel. The only intervention of the artist in an otherwise mechanical process seems to be his control of the scale of the canvas itself, the artist's having arranged the color combinations via reference to an apparently logical, predetermined schema.

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Content compiled and written by Larissa Borteh

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Gerhard Richter Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Larissa Borteh
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 22 Jan 2012. Updated and modified regularly
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