Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter (born February 9, 1932) is a German artist.

Gerhard Richter was born in Dresden, Germany, and grew up in the countryside, in Reichenau and Waltersdorf. He left school after tenth grade and apprenticed as an advertising and stage-set painter, before studying at the Dresden Art Academy. Richter taught as a visiting professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and in 1971 became tenured professor at Düsseldorf Art Academy. In 1983, Richter moved from Düsseldorf to Cologne, where he continues to live.

Richter married Marianne Eufinger in 1957. Nine years later, she gave birth to his first daughter, Betty. He married his second wife, the sculptor Isa Genzken, in 1982. Richter had his son, Moritz, with his third wife, Sabine Moritz, the year they were married, 1995. One year later, his second daughter, Ella Maria, was born.

Richter had his first solo show, Gerhard Richter, in 1964 at Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf. Soon after, he had exhibitions in Munich and Berlin and by the early 1970s exhibited frequently throughout Europe and the United States. His fourth retrospective, Gerhard Richter: 40 Years of Painting, curated by Robert Storr, opened at New York's Museum of Modern Art in February 2002, then traveled to Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Richter has published a number of catalogues, monographs, and books of his artwork and notes on painting, and has been awarded many honors and prizes for his art. He continues to make and exhibit paintings.

Although Richter gained popularity and critical praise throughout his career, his fame burgeoned during his most recent retrospective exhibition, which declared his place among the most important artists of the 20th century. Today, many call Gerhard Richter the best living painter.

Many of his work and paintings can be found at

Gerhard Richter's work is full of tension between depicted reality and the actuality of painting: process and material. He is known for his photo-paintings, particularly his landscapes, and his involved abstract paintings. Despite the scope of his body of work, which is commonly misunderstood as polar, Richter's paintings consistently support a unified theme that is twofold: 1. Images (and ideas and ideals) are static, superficial, and unachievable and are to be doubted; and, 2. Reality is a process of imagination and material creation and revision. Richter’s subject is the range of relationships between illusion and this reality, his painting.

Photo-Paintings and the Blur
Many of Richter's most admired paintings are made in a multi-step process of representations. He starts with a photograph, which he has found or taken himself, and projects it onto his canvas, where he traces it for exact form. Taking his color palette from the photograph, he paints to replicate the look of the original picture. His hallmark "blur"—sometimes a softening by the light touch of a soft brush, sometimes a hard smear by an aggressive pull with his squeegee—has two effects: 1. It offers the image a photographic appearance; and 2. Paradoxically, it testifies the painter's actions, both skilled and coarse, and the plastic nature of the paint itself.

In some paintings blurs and smudges are severe enough to disrupt the image; it becomes hard to understand or believe. The subject is nullified. In these paintings, images and symbols (such as landscapes, portraits, and news photos) are rendered fragile illusions, fleeting conceptions in our constant reshaping of the world.

It is interesting to compare Richter's painting with the early work of Vija Celmins with whom he shares some similarities of subject and style.

Abstract Pictures
In his Abstract Pictures, Richter builds up cumulative layers of nonrepresentational painting. The paintings evolve in stages, based on his responses to the picture’s progress: the incidental details and patterns that emerge. Throughout his process, Richter uses the same techniques he uses in his representational paintings, blurring and scraping to veil and expose prior layers.

Richter’s abstract work is remarkable for the illusion of space that develops, ironically, out of his incidental process: an accumulation of spontaneous, reactive gestures of adding, moving, and subtracting paint. Despite unnatural palettes, spaceless sheets of color, and obvious trails of the artist’s tools, the Abstract Pictures often act like windows through which we see the landscape outside. As in his representational paintings, there is an equalization of illusion and paint. In those paintings, he reduces worldly images to mere incidents of Art. Similarly, in his Abstract Pictures, Richter exalts spontaneous, intuitive mark-making to a level of spatial logic and believability.

Nearly all of Richter’s work demonstrates both illusionistic space that seems natural and the physical activity and material of painting—as mutual interferences. For Richter, reality is the combination of new attempts to understand—to represent; in his case, to paint—the world surrounding us.

Richter and Minimalism

Eight Grey by Gerhard RichterThroughout the body of Richter's work one can often observe waves of minimalism appearing often to disappear again. It may be noted that perhaps it may be necessary to view Richter as a conceptual artist wherein his individual pieces point towards a very painterly approach while possibly this may not be his intent. If one views the progressions in the individual series as single works a very different concept erupts. While many critics agree that this analysis may be necessary, let us take it one step further assuming that Richters' small series is analogous to his entire body of work, one sees the same images of realism to blur. For example Eight Grey 2002. It may be considered thus his interest is in the progression not the individual images nor the qualities of paint nor any other medium he uses. In this a new idea of minimalism is born, a minimalism where the material means nothing however its use is technically masterful. As was said by Jan Van Eyck in the inscription on the frame of Man in the Red Turban "Als Ich Kan" which are the first words of the proverb "As I can, but not as I would."