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Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter, 2005
Born (1932-02-09) February 9, 1932
Dresden, Weimar Republic
Nationality German
Education Dresden Art Academy, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
Known for Painting, photography
Movement New European Painting

Gerhard Richter (born 9 February 1932) is a German visual artist and one of the pioneers of the New European Painting that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings, and also photographs and glass pieces. His art follows the examples of Picasso and Jean Arp in undermining the concept of the artist's obligation to maintain a single cohesive style.

In October 2012, Richter's Abstraktes Bild set an auction record price for a painting by a living artist at £21 million ($34 million).[1] This was exceeded in May 2013 when his 1968 piece Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral square, Milan) was sold for $37.1 million (£24.4 million) in New York.[2]


  • Early life 1
  • Early career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Art 4
    • Photo-paintings and the "blur" 4.1
    • Abstract work 4.2
    • Color chart paintings 4.3
    • Sculpture 4.4
    • Drawings 4.5
    • Commissions 4.6
    • Cologne Cathedral 4.7
  • Exhibitions 5
    • Solo exhibitions (selection) 5.1
  • Recognition 6
  • Influence 7
  • Position on the art market 8
  • Film 9
  • Quotes 10
  • See also 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14

Early life

Richter was born in Dresden, Saxony, and grew up in Reichenau, Lower Silesia, and in Waltersdorf (Zittauer Gebirge), in the Upper Lusatian countryside. He left school after 10th grade and apprenticed as an advertising and stage-set painter, before studying at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. In 1948, he finished higher professional school in Zittau, and, between 1949 and 1951, successively worked as an apprentice with a sign painter, a photographer and as a painter.[3] In 1950, his application for tuition in the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts was rejected as "too bourgeois".[3] He finally began his studies at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts in 1951. His teachers were Karl von Appen, Heinz Lohmar (de) and Will Grohmann.

Early career

In the early days of his career, he prepared a wall painting (Communion with Picasso, 1955) for the refectory of his Academy of Arts as part of his B.A. Another mural followed at the German Hygiene Museum entitled Lebensfreude (Joy of life), for his diploma and intended to produce an effect "similar to that of wallpaper or tapestry".[4]

Gerhard Richter c. 1970, photograph by Lothar Wolleh

Both paintings were painted over for ideological reasons after Richter escaped from East to West Germany two months before the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961; after German reunification two "windows" of the wall painting Joy of life (1956) were uncovered in the stairway of the German Hygiene Museum, but these were later covered over when it was decided to restore the Museum to its original 1930 state. From 1957 to 1961 Richter worked as a master trainee in the academy and took commissions for the then state of East Germany. During this time, he worked intensively on murals like Arbeiterkampf (Workers' struggle), on oil paintings (e.g. portraits of the East German actress Angelica Domröse and of Richter's first wife Ema), on various self-portraits and furthermore, on a panorama of Dresden with the neutral name Stadtbild (Townscape, 1956).

When he escaped to West Germany, Richter began to study at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Karl Otto Götz. With Sigmar Polke and Konrad Fischer (de) (pseudonym Lueg) he introduced the term Kapitalistischer Realismus (Capitalistic Realism)[5][6] as an anti-style of art, appropriating the pictorial shorthand of advertising. This title also referred to the realist style of art known as Socialist Realism, then the official art doctrine of the Soviet Union, but it also commented upon the consumer-driven art doctrine of western capitalism.

Richter taught at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design as a visiting professor; he returned to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1971, where he was a professor for over 15 years.

Personal life

In 1983, Richter resettled from Düsseldorf to Cologne, where he still lives and works today.[7] In 1996, he moved into a studio designed by architect Thiess Marwede.[8]

Richter married Marianne Eufinger in 1957; she gave birth to his first daughter. He married his second wife, the sculptor Isa Genzken, in 1982. Richter had a son and daughter with his third wife, Sabine Moritz after they were married in 1995.


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.

Photo-paintings and the "blur"

Richter created various painting pictures from black-and-white photographs during the 1960s and early 1970s, basing them on a variety of sources: newspapers and books, sometimes incorporating their captions, (as in Helga Matura (1966)); private snapshots; aerial views of towns and mountains, (Cityscape Madrid (1968) and Alps (1968)); seascapes (1969–70); and a large multi-partite work made for the German Pavilion in the 1972 Venice Biennale. For Forty-eight Portraits (1971–2), he chose mainly the faces of composers such as Gustav Mahler and Jean Sibelius, and of writers such as H. G. Wells and Franz Kafka.[9]

Many of these 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" is achieved sometimes with a light touch of a soft brush, sometimes a hard smear by an aggressive pull with a squeegee.

Richter has stated that the use of photographic imagery as a starting point for his early paintings resulted from an attempt to escape the complicated process of deciding what to paint, along with the critical and theoretical implications accompanying such decisions within the context of a modernist discourse. To achieve this, Richter began amassing photos from magazines, books, etc., many of which became the subject matter of his early photography-based paintings. Thus the Atlas was born: Atlas is an ongoing, encyclopedic work composed of approximately 4,000 photographs, reproductions or cut-out details of photographs and illustrations, grouped together on approximately 600 separate panels.[10] When Atlas was first exhibited in 1972 at the Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst in Utrecht under the title Atlas der Fotos und Skizzen, it included 315 parts. The work has continued to expand, and was exhibited later in full form at the Lenbachhaus in Munich in 1989, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne in 1990, and at Dia Art Foundation in New York in 1995.

From around 1964, Richter made a number of portraits of dealers, collectors, artists and others connected with his immediate professional circle. Richter's two portraits of Betty, his daughter, were made in 1977 and 1988 respectively; the three portraits titled IG were made in 1993 and depict the artist's second wife, Francisco de Zurbarán, the artist began to experiment with arrangements of candles and skulls placed in varying degrees of natural light, sitting atop otherwise barren tables. The Candle paintings coincided with his first large-scale abstract paintings, and represent the complete antithesis to those vast, colorful and playfully meaningless works. Richter has made only 27 of these still lifes.[21] In 1995, the artist marked the 50th anniversary of the allied bombings of his hometown Dresden during the Second World War. His solitary candle was reproduced on a monumental scale and placed overlooking the River Elbe as a symbol of rejuvenation.[22]

In a 1988 series of 15 ambiguous photo paintings entitled October 18, 1977, he depicted four members of the

  • Official website with comprehensive image database, biography, literature list and timeline
  • Gerhard Richter at the Museum of Modern Art
  • Gerhard Richter at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Gerhard Richter Archive (State Art Collections Dresden, Germany)
  • Gerhard Richter at Galerie Ludorff, Düsseldorf, Germany

External links

Jürgen Harten (ed.): "Gerhard Richter. Paintings 1962–1985". With a catalogue raisonné from Dietmar Elger 1962–1985, Cologne 1986. (German)
Angelika Thill: "Catalogue raisonné since 1962" in: Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH (ed.): "Gerhard Richter", Ostfildern-Ruit 1993. Thill offers the now accepted catalogue raisonné between 1963 and 1993. (German)
Gerhard Richter: "The Condition of History" in: Charles Harrison, & Paul Wood (Eds.), "Art in Theory 1900–1990". An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Malden/Mass. (Blackwell Publishers Ltd.), 1999.
Eckhart Gillen: "Gerhard Richter: Mr. Heyde or the murders are among us". The battle with the trauma of the displaced history of Western Germany. In: Eckhart Gillen: Problems in searching for the truth (...), Berlin 2002, p. 186–191. (German)
Elger, Dietmar (2009). Gerhard Richter – A Life in Painting. University of Chicago Press.  
Robert Storr: "Gerhard Richter, Painting", Ostfildern-Ruit (Hatje Cantz) 2002. ISBN 3-7757-1169-4 (German)
Dietmar Elger: "Gerhard Richter, Landscapes", Ostfildern-Ruit (Hatje Cantz) 2002. ISBN 3-7757-9101-9
Obrist, Hans-Ulrich: "Gerhard Richter: 100 Pictures", Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2002. ISBN 978-3-7757-9100-7
Obrist, Hans-Ulrich: "Gerhard Richter. 100 paintings", Ostfildern-Ruit (Hatje Cantz) 2005. ISBN 3-89322-851-9 (German)
Obrist, Hans-Ulrich: "Gerhard Richter: 4900 Colours",Hatje Cantz,2009. ISBN 978-3-7757-2344-2
Obrist, Hans-Ulrich; Elger Dietmar: "Gerhard Richter: Writings", Distributed Art Publishers, 2009. ISBN 978-1-933045-94-8
Storr Robert: "Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting", Museum of Modern Art, New York,2002. ISBN 978-1-891024-37-5
Hubertus Butin/Stefan Gronert: "Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965–2004". Catalogue raisonné, Ostfildern-Ruit (Hatje Cantz) 2003/2004. ISBN 3-7757-1430-8
Jürgen Schilling: "Gerhard Richter. A private collection", Duesseldorf 2004. ISBN 3-937572-00-7 (German)
Andrew McNamara: "Optative Death: Gerhard Richter in the Wake of the Vanguard" in Elizabeth Klaver (ed.), Images of the Corpse: From the Renaissance to Cyberspace (The University of Wisconsin Press) 2004. ISBN 0-299-19790-5
Juergen Schreiber: "A painter from Germany". Gerhard Richter. A family drama, München and Zürich (Pendo publishers) 2005. ISBN 3-86612-058-3 (German)
Jeanne Anne Nugent: "Family Album and Shadow Archive": Gerhard Richter's East, West, and all German Painting, 1949–1966. Dissertation in the History of Art presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 2005.
(French) Bruno Eble, Gerhard Richter : la surface du regard, L'Harmattan, 2006, 237 p. ISBN 978-2-296-01527-2
Ernst Hohenthal: "A family secret in the public domain". New revelations about Gerhard Richter's Herr Heyde, in: Christies's Magazine, November 2006, New York and London 2006, ISSN 0266–1217 Vol. XXIII. No.5, S 62 f.
Ulrich Bischoff/Elisabeth Hipp/Jeanne Anne Nugent: "From Caspar David Friedrich to Gerhard Richter": German Paintings from Dresden. Getty Trust Publications, Jean Paul Getty Museum, Cologne 2006.
Adriani Goetz: "Gerhard Richter: Paintings From Private Collections", Hatje Cantz, 2008. ISBN 978-3-7757-2137-0


  1. ^ "Gerhard Richter painting sells for record £21m".  
  2. ^ "Richter Painting breaks record for living artist". BBC News. May 15, 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b (Elger 2009, p. 10)
  4. ^ (Elger 2009, pp. 15–18)
  5. ^ Schudel, Matt (13 June 2010). "German artist Sigmar Polke, creator of 'Higher Beings Command,' dies at 69". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 November 2014. In the 1960s, Mr. Polke was at the vanguard of a German artistic movement called capitalist realism, along with fellow painter Gerhard Richter -- who later expressed reservations about his colleague's work, saying "he refuses to accept any borders, any limits." 
  6. ^ Grafik des kapitalistischen Realismus, KP Brehmer, Karl Horst Hödicke (de), Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Wolf Vostell, Druckgrafik bis 1971
  7. ^ Gerhard Richter Guggenheim Collection
  8. ^ Sebastian Preus (January 29, 1998), Gebauter Symbolismus oder reine Form? Gerhard Richters Wohnhaus und Atelier in Köln Berliner Zeitung
  9. ^ a b Gerhard Richter MoMA | The Collection
  10. ^ Gerhard Richter: Atlas Dia Art Foundation, New York, April 27, 1995 through February 25, 1996
  11. ^ a b c , 26 February – 31 May 2009PortraitsGerhard Richter National Portrait Gallery, London
  12. ^ Gerhard Richter: Panorama, 6 October 2011 – 8 January 2012 Tate Modern, London
  13. ^ Gerhard Richter: Gilbert, George (381-1, 381-2), 1975 Tate Collection
  14. ^ a b (1966)Elizabeth IGerhard Richter, Tate Collection
  15. ^ by Gerhard RichterElizabeth II MoMA | Collection
  16. ^ , 1976Vesuv (Vesuvius) 407Gerhard Richter: Philips de Pury & Company, New York
  17. ^ Gerhard Richter: Landscapes Hatje Cantz Publishing
  18. ^ Gerhard Richter: A Life in PaintingDietmar Elger, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), pp. 173–74
  19. ^ (1971)Große Teyde-LandschaftGerhard Richter, Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale, 14 November 2012, New York
  20. ^ a b Elger, Dietmar: Gerhard Richter – A Life in Painting. 2010, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 202
  21. ^ a b c d e f Sarah Thornton (October 8, 2011), Selling Gerhard Richter – The bold standard The Economist
  22. ^ (1982)Kerze (Candle)Gerhard Richter, Christie's London, Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 14 October 2011
  23. ^ Gerhard Richter: October 18, 1977 MoMA | Collection
  24. ^ Aidan Dunne (October 14, 2011), From hot to cool on the Richter scale The Irish Times
  25. ^ Gottlieb, Benjamin (February 2011). "Art Books in Review: Gerhard Richter is Speechless". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  26. ^ Tom McCarthy (September 22, 2011), Blurred visionary: Gerhard Richter's photo-paintings The Guardian
  27. ^ a b c (1993)Abstraktes Bild 798-3Gerhard Richter, Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 8 May 2012
  28. ^ Rachel Saltz (March 13, 2012), , a Documentary"Gerhard Richter Painting"An Artist at Work, Looking and Judging: , The New York Times
  29. ^ , 1994Abstract Painting (809-3)Gerhard Richter: Tate, London
  30. ^ FirenzeGerhard Richter Marian Goodman Gallery, June 21 through August 30th, 2002
  31. ^ 2004Abstract Painting (Skin) (887-3)Gerhard Richter: Tate, London
  32. ^ Gerhard Richter Tate Modern, Collection Displays
  33. ^ Alexander Adams (June 13, 2013), At the top of his game The Art Newspaper.
  34. ^ Dieter Schwarz (February 14, 2013), Picture preview: Gerhard Richter's previously unseen November series The Independent.
  35. ^ Gerhard Richter (b. 1932), 4096 Farben, Sale 1373 Christie's London, 11 May 2004
  36. ^ Gerhard Richter: 180 Farben (180 Colors) Philadelphia Museum of Art Collection
  37. ^ Colour Chart: Reinventing Colour, 1950 to Today Tate Liverpool, 29 May through 13 September 2009
  38. ^ Gerhard Richter: 4900 Colours Hatje Cantz Publishing, 2008
  39. ^ Gerhard Richter: 11 Panes, 2004 Tate Collection
  40. ^ , 1991Mirror Painting (Grey, 735-2)Gerhard Richter: Tate, London
  41. ^ Gerhard Richter, Dia Art Foundation
  42. ^ Gerhard Richter and Jorge Pardo: Refraction Dia Art Foundation, September 5, 2002 through June 15, 2003
  43. ^ Gerhard Richter: Painting 2012, September 12 – October 13, 2012 Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
  44. ^ Cotter, Holland (9 September 2010). "Building an Art of Virtuouso Ambiguity". The New York Times. 
  45. ^ Lossin, R.H. (October 2010). "Gerhard Richter: Lines which do not exist". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  46. ^ a b c d e Crow, Kelly (March 16, 2012). "The Top-Selling Living Artist". Wall Street Journal. 
  47. ^ Carol Vogel (March 28, 2013), More Richter At Auction, The New York Times
  48. ^ Elger, Dietmar: Gerhard Richter – A Life in Painting. 2010, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 278
  49. ^ Cologne Cathedral Gets New Stained-Glass Window Der Spiegel, August 27, 2007
  50. ^ Fortini, Amanda (2007-12-09). "Pixelated Stained Glass". The New York Times.  
  51. ^ Gerhard Richter weist Meisners Kritik zurück, Die Welt, 31 August 2007. (German)
  52. ^ Window by Artist Gerhard Richter Unveiled at Cologne Cathedral, Deutsche Welle, 27 August 2007
  53. ^ , May 12, 2008. Retrieved Jan. 5, 2012The New YorkerPeter Schjeldahl, "Many-colored Glass: Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke do windows,
  54. ^ Christopher Knight (April 6, 2002),A Brush With Pop – A MOMA retrospective on Gerhard Richter might make you wrongly think he's a Conceptual painter. Los Angeles Times
  55. ^ "From Caspar David Friedrich to Gerhard Richter: German Paintings from Dresden", October 5, 2006 – April 29, 2007 at the Getty Center
  56. ^
  57. ^ "Gerhard Richter 4900 Colours: Version II". Serpentine Gallery. 2008-11-23. Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  58. ^ "Current Exhibitions | Gerhard Richter: Panorama". Tate Modern. Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  59. ^ Richter, le plus grand peintre du monde, Le Point, 31 may 2012
  60. ^ Gerhard Richter. Panorama 12 February – 13 May, 2012 Retrieved 2013-04-06
  61. ^ Don DeLillo (17 August 2002) "Baader-Meinhof" The Guardian; Gordon Burn (20 September 2008), "I believe in nothing", The Guardian
  62. ^ Gerhard Richter Marian Goodman Gallery
  63. ^ Roger Boyes (June 17, 2006), Nazi ghosts haunting a family The Times
  64. ^ "The commodification of Gerhard Richter". Reuters. 
  65. ^ (Candle), Sale: L08020KerzeGerhard Richter b. 1932, Sotheby's London, Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 27 February 2008
  66. ^ Scott Reyburn (October 14, 2011), Richter $16.6 Million Record Leads Auction Boost to Art Market Bloomberg L.P.
  67. ^ , Sale 7565Zwei LiebespaareGerhard Richter (b. 1932) Christie's London, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 6 February 2008
  68. ^ Gerhard Richter, b.1932: Matrosen (Sailors). Sotheby's. Accessed August 2013.
  69. ^ Abstraktes Bild – Abstract Painting 1979: Catalogue Raisonné 447. Gerhard Richter. Accessed August 2013.
  70. ^ Souren Melikian (February 16, 2011). "Disruptions at Sotheby's Contemporary Auction". The New York Times. 
  71. ^ a b Carol Vogel (January 12, 2012), Surprise! Israel Museum Is Receiving a Richter, The New York Times
  72. ^ Carol Vogel (November 9, 2011), As Stocks Fall, Art Surges At a $315.8 Million Sale, The New York Times
  73. ^ Scott Reyburn (June 13, 2012), Hedge Funder Cohen, Eye Rothko, $25 Million Richter Sells Bloomberg
  74. ^ Carol Vogel (October 15, 2012), Gerhard Richter Painting Sets Record Auction Price for a Living Artist, The New York Times
  75. ^ a b "Gerhard Richter talks about Panorama at Tate Modern",, October 2011


See also

At a Q&A ahead of his retrospective at the Tate Modern on 4 October 2011, he was asked: "Has the role of artist changed over the years?" Richter replied: "It's more entertainment now. We entertain people.”[75]

"One has to believe in what one is doing, one has to commit oneself inwardly, in order to do painting. Once obsessed, one ultimately carries it to the point of believing that one might change human beings through painting. But if one lacks this passionate commitment, there is nothing left to do. Then it is best to leave it alone. For basically painting is idiocy.” (From Richter, "Notes 1973" in The Daily Practice of Painting, p. 78.)


In 2007, Corinna Belz made a short film called Gerhard Richter's Window where the media-shy artist appeared on camera for the first time in 15 years. In 2011, Corinna Belz's feature-length documentary entitled Gerhard Richter Painting was released. The film focused almost entirely on the world's highest paid living artist producing his large-scale abstract squeegee works in his studio.[46]

External video
Portraits, Paul Moorhouse, 2009, 15:46
Gerhard Richter's Betty, 4:58 on YouTube, Smarthistory


Another coveted group of works is the Abstrakte Bilder series, particularly those made after 1988, which are finished with a large squeegee rather than a brush or roller.[21] At Pierre Bergé & Associés in July 2009, Richter's 1979 oil painting Abstraktes Bild exceeded its estimate, selling for €95,000 ($136,000).[69] Richter's Abstraktes Bild, of 1990 was made the top price of 7.2 million pounds, or about $11.6 million, at a Sotheby's sale in February 2011 to a bidder who was said by dealers to be an agent for the New York dealer Larry Gagosian.[70] In November 2011, Sotheby's sold a group of colorful abstract canvases by Richter, including Abstraktes Bild 849-3, which made a record price for the artist at auction when Lily Safra[71] paid $20.8 million[72] only to donate it to the Israel Museum afterwards.[71] Months later, a record $21.8 million was paid at Christie's for the 1993 painting Abstraktes Bild 798-3.[27][73] Abstraktes Bild (809-4), one of the artist's abstract canvases from 1994, was sold by Eric Clapton at Sotheby's to a telephone bidder for $34.2 million in late 2012. (It had been estimated to bring $14.1 million to $18.8 million.)[74] When asked about amounts like that Richter said "It's just as absurd as the banking crisis. It's impossible to understand and it's daft!"[75]

In February 2008, Christie's London set a first record for Richter's "capitalist realism" pictures from the 1960s by selling the painting Zwei Liebespaare (1966) for £7,300,500 ($14.3 million)[67] to Stephan Schmidheiny.[21] In 2010, the Weserburg Modern Art Museum in Bremen, Germany, decided to sell Richter's 1966 painting Matrosen (Sailors) in a November auction held by Sotheby's, where John D. Arnold[46] bought it for $13 million.[68]

Richter's candle paintings were the first to command high auction prices. Three months after his MoMA exhibition opened in 2001, Sotheby's sold his Three Candles (1982) for $5.3 million. In February 2008, the artist's eldest daughter, Betty,[46] sold her Kerze (1983) for £7,972,500 ($15 million), triple the high estimate, at Sotheby's in London.[65] His 1982 Kerze (Candle) sold for £10.5 million ($16.5 million) at Christie's London in October 2011.[66]

[21] At the same time, his works often appear at auction. According to [63] By 2004, Richter's annual turnover was $120m (£65m).[46] Today, museums own roughly 38% of Richter's works, including half of his large abstract paintings.

Following an exhibition with Blinky Palermo at Galerie Heiner Friedrich in 1971, Richter's formal arrangement with the dealer came to an end in 1972. Thereafter Friedrich was only entitled to sell the paintings that he had already obtained contractually from Richter.[20] In the following years, Richter showed with Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf, and Sperone Westwater, New York. Today Richter is represented by Marian Goodman,[62] his primary dealer since 1985.[21]

Position on the art market

He also served as source of inspiration for writers and musicians. Sonic Youth used a painting of his for the cover art for their album Daydream Nation in 1988. He was a fan of the band and did not charge for the use of his image. The original, over 7 metres (23 ft) square, is now showcased in Sonic Youth's studio in NYC. Don DeLillo's short story "Baader-Meinhof" describes an encounter between two strangers at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The meeting takes place in the room displaying October 18, 1977 (1988).[61]

Among the students who studied with Richter at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf between 1971 and 1994 were Ludger Gerdes, Hans-Jörg Holubitschka, Bernard Lokai, Thomas Schütte, Thomas Struth, Katrin Kneffel, Michael van Ofen, and Richter's second wife, Isa Genzken. He is known to have influenced Ellsworth Kelly, Christopher Wool and Johan Andersson (artist).


Album cover from Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation

Although Richter gained popularity and critical praise throughout his career, his fame burgeoned during his 2005 retrospective exhibition, which declared his place among the most important artists of the 20th century. Today, many call Gerhard Richter the best living painter. In part, this comes from his ability to explore the medium at a time when many were heralding its death. Richter has been the recipient of numerous distinguished awards, including the State Prize of the state North Rhine-Westphalia in 2000; the Wexner Prize, 1998; the Praemium Imperiale, Japan, 1997; the Golden Lion of the 47th Biennale, Venice, 1997; the Wolf Prize in Israel in 1994/5; the Kaiserring Prize der Stadt Goslar, Mönchehaus-Museum für Moderne Kunst, Goslar, Germany, 1988; the Oskar Kokoschka Prize, Vienna, 1985; the Arnold Bode Prize, Kassel, 1981; and the Junger Western Art Prize, Germany, 1961. He was made an honorary citizen of Cologne in April 2007.


Solo exhibitions (selection)

The Gerhard Richter Archive was established in cooperation with the artist in 2005 as an institute of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.[56]

Richter became known to a U.S. audience in 1990, when the Saint Louis Art Museum circulated Baader-Meinhof (October 18, 1977), a show that that was later seen at the Lannan Foundation in Marina del Rey, California.[54] Richter's first North American retrospective was in 1998 at the Art Gallery of Ontario and at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. In 2002, a 40-year retrospective of Richter's work was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and traveled to The Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. He has participated in several international art shows, including the Venice Biennale (1972, 1980, 1984, 1997 and 2007), as well as Documenta V (1972), VII (1982), VIII (1987), IX (1992), and X (1997). In 2006, an exhibition at the Getty Center connected the landscapes of Richter to the Romantic pictures of Caspar David Friedrich, showing that both artists "used abstraction, expansiveness, and emptiness to express transcendent emotion through painting."[55]

Richter first began exhibiting in Düsseldorf in 1963. Richter had his first gallery solo show 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. In 1966, Bruno Bischofberger was the first to show Richter's works outside Germany. Richter's first retrospective took place at the Kunsthalle Bremen in 1976 and covered works from 1962 to 1974. A traveling retrospective at Düsseldorf's Kunsthalle in 1986 was followed in 1991 by a retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London. In 1993 he received a major touring retrospective "Gerhard Richter: Malerei 1962-1993" curated by Kasper König, with a three volume catalogue edited by Benjamin Buchloch. This exhibition containing 130 works carried out over the course of thirty years, was to entirely reinvent Richter's career.[27]


In 2002, the same year as his MoMA retrospective, Richter was asked to design a stained glass window in the Cologne Cathedral In August 2007, his window was unveiled. It is an 113 square metres (1,220 sq ft) abstract collage of 11,500 pixel-like squares in 72 colors, randomly arranged by computer (with some symmetry), reminiscent of his 1974 painting "4096 colours". Although the artist waived any fee, the costs of materials and mounting the window came to around €370,000 ($506,000). However the costs were covered by donations from more than 1,000 people.[49] Cardinal Joachim Meisner did not attend the window's unveiling; he had preferred a figurative representation of 20th century Christian martyrs and said that Richter's window would fit better in a mosque or other prayer house.[50][51][52] A professed atheist with "a strong leaning towards Catholicism", Richter's three children with his third wife were baptized in the Cologne Cathedral.[53]

Stained glass window in the Cologne Cathedral, 20 metres (66 ft) tall

Cologne Cathedral

Throughout his career, Richter has mostly declined lucrative licensing deals and private commissions.[46] Measuring 9 by 9 ½ feet and depicting both the Milan Duomo and the square's 19th-century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Domplatz, Mailand [Cathedral Square, Milan] (1968) was a commission from Siemens, and it hung in that company's offices in Milan from 1968 to 1998. (In 1998, Sotheby's sold it in London, where it fetched what was then a record price for Richter, $3.6 million).[47] In 1980, Richter and Isa Genzken were commissioned to design the König-Heinrich-Platz underground station in Duisburg; it was only completed in 1992. In 1986, Richter received a commission for two large-scale paintings – Victoria I and Victoria II – from the Victoria insurance company in Düsseldorf.[48] In 1990, along with Sol LeWitt and Oswald Mathias Ungers, he created works for the Bayerische Hypotheken- und Wechselbank in Düsseldorf. In 1998, he installed a wall piece based on the colours of Germany's flag in the rebuilt Reichstag in Berlin.


In 2010, the Drawing Center showed Lines which do not exist, a survey of Richter's drawings from 1966 to 2005, including works made using mechanical intervention such as attaching a pencil to an electric hand drill. It was the first career overview of Richter in the United States since 40 Years of Painting at the Museum of Modern Art in 2002.[44] In a review of Lines which do not exist, R. H. Lossin writes in The Brooklyn Rail: "Viewed as a personal (and possibly professional) deficiency, Richter's drawing practice consisted of diligently documenting something that didn't work—namely a hand that couldn't draw properly. ...Richter displaces the concept of the artist's hand with hard evidence of his own, wobbly, failed, and very material appendage."[45]


In 2002, for the Dia Art Foundation, Richter created a glass sculpture in which seven parallel panes of glass refract light and the world beyond, offering altered visions of the exhibition space; Spiegel I (Mirror I) and Spiegel II (Mirror II), a two-part mirror piece from 1989 that measures 7' tall and 18' feet long, which alters the boundaries of the environment and again changes one's visual experience of the gallery; and Kugel (Sphere), 1992, a stainless steel sphere that acts as a mirror, reflecting the space.[42] Since 2002, the artist has created a series of three dimensional glass constructions, such as 6 Standing Glass Panels (2002/2011).[43]

[41] 9 in Kassel in 1992.Documenta Arranged in two rooms, Richter presented an ensemble of paintings and colored mirrors in a special pavilion designed in collaboration with architect Paul Robbrecht at [40] These plain sheets of glass could tilt away from the poles on whicht they were mounted at an angle that changed from one installation to the next. In 1970, he and [39].Four Panes of Glass Richter began to use glass in his work in 1967, when he made


Richter's 4900 Colours from 2007 consisted of bright monochrome squares that have been randomly arranged in a grid pattern to create stunning fields of kaleidoscopic color. It was produced at the same time he developed his design for the south transept window of Cologne Cathedral. 4900 Colours consists of 196 panels in 25 colors that can be reassembled in 11 variations – from a single expansive surface to multiple small-format fields. Richter developed Version II – 49 paintings, each of which measures 97 by 97 centimeters – especially for the Serpentine Gallery.[38]

Returning to color charts in the 1970s, Richter changed his focus from the readymade to the conceptual system, developing mathematical procedures for mixing colours and chance operations for their placement.[37] The range of the colors he employed was determined by a mathematical system for mixing the primary colors in graduated amounts. Each color was then randomly ordered to create the resultant composition and form of the painting. Richter's second series of Color Charts was begun in 1971 and consisted of only five paintings. In the final series of Color Charts which preoccupied Richter throughout 1973 and 1974, additional elements to this permutational system of color production were added in the form of mixes of a light grey, a dark gray and later, a green.

As early as 1966, Richter had made paintings based on colour charts, using the rectangles of colour as found objects in an apparently limitless variety of hue; these culminated in 1973–4 in a series of large-format pictures such as 256 Colours.[9] Richter painted three series of Color Chart paintings between 1966 and 1974, each series growing more ambitious in their attempt to create through their purely arbitrary arrangement of colors.[35] The artist began his investigations into the complex permutations of color charts in 1966, with a small painting entitled 10 Colors.[36] The charts provided anonymous and impersonal source material, a way for Richter to disassociate color from any traditional, descriptive, symbolic or expressive end. When he began to make these paintings, Richter had his friend Blinky Palermo randomly call out colors, which Richter then adopted for his work. Chance thus plays its role in the creation of his first series.

Color chart paintings

In November 2008, Richter began a series in which he applied ink droplets to wet paper, using alcohol and lacquer to extend and retard the ink’s natural tendency to bloom and creep. The resulting November sheets are regarded as a significant departure from his previous watercolours in that the pervasive soaking of ink into wet paper produced double-sided works. Sometimes the uppermost sheets bled into others, generating a sequentially developing series of images.[33] In a few cases Richter applied lacquer to one side of the sheet, or drew pencil lines across the patches of colour.[34]

After 2000, Richter made a number of works that dealt with scientific phenomena, in particular, with aspects of reality that cannot be seen by the naked eye.[31] In 2006, Richter conceived six paintings as a coherent group under the title Cage, named after the American avant-garde composer John Cage.[32] In May 2002, Richter photographed 216 details of his abstract painting no. 648-2, from 1987. Working on a long table over a period of several weeks, Richter combined these 10 x 15 cm details with 165 texts on the Iraq war, published in the German FAZ newspaper on March 20 and 21. This work was published in 2004 as a book entitled War Cut.

Firenze continues a cycle of 99 works conceived in the autumn of 1999 and executed in the same year and thereafter. The series of overpainted photographs, or übermalte Photographien, consists of small paintings bearing images of the city of Florence, created by the artist as a tribute to the music of Steve Reich and the work of Contempoartensemble, a Florence-based group of musicians.[30]

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.

In 1976, Richter first gave the title Abstract Painting to one of his works. By presenting a painting without even a few words to name and explain it, he felt he was "letting a thing come, rather than creating it." In his abstract pictures, Richter builds up cumulative layers of non-representational painting, beginning with brushing big swaths of primary color onto canvas.[28] 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. From the mid-1980s, Richter began to use a home-made squeegee to rub and scrape the paint that he had applied in large bands across his canvases. In the 1990s the artist began to run his squeegee up and down the canvas in an ordered fashion to produce vertical columns that take on the look of a wall of planks.[29]

Coming full-circle from his early Table (1962) in which he cancelled his photorealist image with haptic swirls of grey paint,[27] in 1969, Richter produced the first of a group of grey monochromes that consist exclusively of the textures resulting from different methods of paint application.

Abstract work

In the 2000s, Richter made a number of works that dealt with scientific phenomena. In 2003, he produced several paintings with the same title: Silicate. Large oil-on-canvas pieces, these show latticed rows of light- and dark-grey blobs whose shapes quasi-repeat as they race across the frame, their angle modulating from painting to painting. They depict a photo, published in the FAZ, of a computer-generated simulacrum of reflections from the silicon dioxide found in insects' shells.[26]

Richter was flying to New York on September 11, 2001, but due to the 9/11 attacks, including on the World Trade Center, his plane was diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia. A few years later, he made one small painting specifically about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center.[24] In September: A History Painting by Gerhard Richter, Robert Storr situates Richter's 2005 painting September within a brand of anti-ideological thought that he finds throughout Richter's work, he considers how the ubiquitous photographic documentation of the September 11 attacks affects the uniqueness of one's distinct remembrance of the events, and he offers a valuable comparison to Richter's October 18, 1977 cycle.[25]

Since 1989, Richter has worked on creating new images by dragging wet paint over photographs. The photographs, not all taken by Richter himself, are mostly snapshots of daily life: family vacations, pictures of friends, mountains, buildings and streetscapes.

. Jan-Carl Raspe's bookshelves and the record player to conceal his gun; on the dead figures of Meinhof, Ensslin, and Baader; and on the funeral of Ensslin, Baader, and Andreas Baader in prison; on Gudrun Ensslin; on police shots of Holger Meins during her years as a radical journalist; on photographs of the arrest of Ulrike Meinhof In the late 1980s, Richter had begun to collect images of the group which he used as the basis for the 15 paintings exhibited for the first time in Krefeld in 1989. The paintings were based on an official portrait of [23] that relate to a longstanding tradition of still life Skulls and Candles In 1982 and 1983, Richter made a series of paintings of

While elements of landscape painting appeared initially in Richter's work early on in his career in 1963, the artist began his independent series of landscapes in 1968 after his first vacation, an excursion that landed him besotted with the terrain of Corsica.[16] Landscapes have since emerged as an independent work group in his oeuvre.[17] According to Dietmar Elger, "Richter's landscapes are almost invariably understood in terms of the great historical tradition of German Romantic Painting. They are especially compared to the work of Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840). ... The comparison with Friedrich makes excellent sense. Not only is Friedrich foundational to the very notion of German landscape painting, but each artist spent important years of his life in Dresden. Indeed, several critics have concluded that, despite being separated by more than a century, the two share a similar experience of nature."[18] Große Teyde-Landschaft (1971) takes its imagery from similar holiday snapshots of the volcanic regions of Tenerife.[19] In 1972 Richter had embarked on a ten-day trip to Greenland, originally having intended to be accompanied by his friend Hanne Darboven, but eventually journeying alone. His intention was to experience and record the desolate arctic landscape. In 1976, four large paintings, each titled Seascape emerged from the Greenland photographs.[20]

Richter began making prints in 1965. He was most active before 1974, only completing sporadic projects since that time. In the period 1965–74, Richter made most of his prints (more than 100), of the same or similar subjects in his paintings.[14] He has explored a variety of photographic printmaking processes – screenprint, photolithography, and collotype – in search of inexpensive mediums that would lend a "non-art" appearance to his work.[15] He stopped working in print media in 1974, and began painting from photographs he took himself.[14]


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