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b. 1932, Germany

Gerhard Richter Biography

Gerhard Richter is an artist known for his diverse and innovative methods of painting that oscillate between realism and abstraction, and his use of photographic sources as the basis of his work.

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After graduating in 1956 from the Dresden Art Academy, where he trained as a painter, Richter painted murals in the state-dictated Socialist Realist aesthetic. In 1959, he visited II. documenta in Kassel and was impressed by the artwork of the Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana and American painter Jackson Pollock. Drawn to the possibility of artistic freedom outside East Germany, he defected to West Germany in 1961 and enrolled in the Kunstakadmie Düsseldorf. There, he met artists Sigmar Polke and Blinky Palermo and future art dealer Konrad Lueg (later Konrad Fischer), whose shared interest in Pop art led them to found Capitalist Realism in 1963—a critique of both Socialist Realism and capitalism.

Richter's paintings from the 1960s are figurative and based on photographic images, a procedure that would continue with his later works. The oil painting Table (1962), for example, began as a realistic portrayal of a white designer table, but the artist was so dissatisfied with the result that he covered most of it in bold brush marks. Uncle Rudi (1965)—one of his most famous works—is based on a full-length photograph of his uncle in Wehrmacht uniform. While representational, the black-and-white painting was rendered with a blurring effect that makes it difficult to see the image with certainty.

In 1962 Richter began building his vast archive of images. The archive includes photographs taken by him or gathered elsewhere of family members, landscapes, still lifes; newspaper cuttings; and sketches for his paintings. In the early 1970s, he started exhibiting his archival images as works of art in their own right under the title 'Atlas'.

Richter's interest in the tension between photography and painting, and between realism and abstraction led him to experiment with a range of methods. For the large-scale diptych Abstract Painting (726), for example, he dragged a squeegee over the surface of the paint to smear it. Underneath the overall grey, however, shades of red, white, and orange hint at the possibility of an original, representational image. Other methods include painting directly over pictures, such as Self Portrait Standing, Three Times, 17.3.1991 (1991), for which the artist applied increasingly more paint on six identical images of himself standing in his studio, so that by the sixth image the original picture is practically invisible.

Richter continues to test the threshold between the figurative and the abstract. For 'Birkenau' (2014), a four-part abstract series based on the photographs secretly taken by Jewish prisoners at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1944, the artist made photographic renditions of the images and painted over them until they became unrecognisable.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2019

Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, TEFAF Selection, Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Düsseldorf (19 March–16 May 2020). Courtesy Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art. Photo: Linda Iconi-Jansen.

Gerhard Richter Featured Artworks

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920-4 STRIP by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork
Gerhard Richter920-4 STRIP, 2011Unique digital print mounted between Alu Dibond and Perspex (Diasec)
160 x 300 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Enquire about this work
MV. 98 by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork
Gerhard RichterMV. 98, 2011Lacquer on colour photograph
10 x 15 cm
Gagosian Enquire about this work
MV. 45 by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork
Gerhard RichterMV. 45, 2011Lacquer on colour photograph
10 x 15 cm
Gagosian Enquire about this work
Firenze (29.1.2000) by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork
Gerhard RichterFirenze (29.1.2000), 2000Oil on colour photograph
12 x 12 cm
Gagosian Enquire about this work
4.1.89 by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork
Gerhard Richter4.1.89, 1989Oil on colour photograph
12.7 x 17.5 cm
Gagosian Enquire about this work
MV. 94 by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork
Gerhard RichterMV. 94, 2011Lacquer on colour photograph
10 x 15 cm
Gagosian Enquire about this work
Spiegel (Mirror), 687-5/6 by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork
Gerhard RichterSpiegel (Mirror), 687-5/6, 1989/2016Diptych; mirror
Marian Goodman Gallery Enquire about this work
930-6 Strip by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork
Gerhard Richter930-6 Strip, 2013/20164 parts; digital print on paper mounted between Alu Dibond and Perspex (Diasec)
Marian Goodman Gallery Enquire about this work

Gerhard Richter Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, TEFAF Selection at Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Düsseldorf
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19 March–31 July 2020 Group Exhibition TEFAF Selection Beck & Eggeling International Fine ArtDüsseldorf
Contemporary art exhibition, Gerhard Richter, Gerhard Richter at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Closed
28 February–25 April 2020 Gerhard Richter Marian Goodman GalleryNew York
Contemporary art exhibition, Gerhard Richter, Overpainted Photographs at Gagosian, London
Closed
9 April–8 June 2019 Gerhard Richter Overpainted Photographs GagosianDavies Street, London

Gerhard Richter Represented By

Marian Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Marian Goodman Gallery New York, Paris, London

Gerhard Richter In Ocula Magazine

How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales Ocula News How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales New York, 25 June 2020

Sotheby's, Christie's, Phillips and Bonham's have changed what they're selling and how they're selling it for major auctions taking place over the next two weeks.

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Young Buyers Boost Phillips’ First Ever Cross-Category Auction Online Ocula News Young Buyers Boost Phillips’ First Ever Cross-Category Auction Online Hong Kong, 3 June 2020

KAWS, Banksy and Josh Sperling were among artists whose work exceeded estimates at the Asia-led sale.

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Gerhard Richter In Related Press

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Paper work – the British Museum shows off its collection of contemporary drawings Related Press Paper work – the British Museum shows off its collection of contemporary drawings 4 November 2019, Apollo Magazine

Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois, Rachel Whiteread, Gerhard Richter. These may not be names that spring to mind when you think of the British Museum, but they all have work filed away in its extensive archive of prints and drawings. 'Pushing Paper: Contemporary Drawing from 1970 to Now' lifts a lid on a lesser-known collection at a museum renowned...

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Never Look Away hitches Gerhard Richter paintings to melodrama set in Nazi Germany Related Press Never Look Away hitches Gerhard Richter paintings to melodrama set in Nazi Germany 21 June 2019, Sarinah Maskor

'To talk about painting is not only difficult but perhaps pointless, too,' says Gerhard Richter in Corrina Belz's 2012 documentary Gerhard Richter Painting. 'You can only express in words what words are capable of expressing, what language can communicate. Painting has nothing to do with that.' This wisdom is lost on director Florian Henckel von...

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Buyer’s guide to...Gerhard Richter Related Press Buyer’s guide to...Gerhard Richter 10 June 2019, The Art Newspaper

With a major retrospective coming up at New York's Met Breuer next year (4 March-5 July), plus his Seascapes at the Guggenheim Bilbao (until 9 September), the German artist Gerhard Richter is having another moment. At Art Basel this week, his work is on show at the booths of David Zwirner and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, among others. This is hardly...

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Painting’s Patriarchal Spirit Related Press Painting’s Patriarchal Spirit 20 October 2018, Hyperallergic

LONDON—In 1981, the Royal Academy of Arts in London put on an exhibition of 20 th century painting that changed the art world. A New Spirit in Painting was 'a manifesto,' the accompanying catalogue said; it showcased a set of contemporary, mostly European painters, whose work possessed qualities—figurative, narrative, emotional...

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