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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


Gerhard Richter
featured artworks

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December 2020 A-F , 2020 by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork print
Gerhard Richter December 2020 A-F , 2020, 2020 Six diasec-mounted Giclee prints on aluminium composite panel
41 x 60 cm
David Zwirner Request Price & Availability
Schädel (Skull) by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork photography
Gerhard Richter Schädel (Skull), 2017 Diasec photograph mounted between antelio glass and plexiglass
54.9 x 49.9 cm
David Zwirner Request Price & Availability
Vermalung (braun) by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork painting
Gerhard Richter Vermalung (braun), 1972 Oil on canvas
27 x 40 cm
Galerie Thomas Request Price & Availability
11.8.2023 by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Gerhard Richter 11.8.2023, 2023 Colored ink, ink, and pencil on paper
21.5 x 26 cm
David Zwirner Request Price & Availability
10.8.2023 by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Gerhard Richter 10.8.2023, 2023 Colored ink and pencil on paper
21.5 x 26 cm
David Zwirner Request Price & Availability
Zaun by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork photography
Gerhard Richter Zaun, 2010 Colour photograph, mounted on white cardboard, artist’s frame
15 x 20 cm
Sies + Höke Request Price & Availability
War Cut II by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork painting, print
Gerhard Richter War Cut II, 2005 Oil on the cover of the artist's book 'War Cut' (French edition)
Galerie Thomas Request Price & Availability
I.G. by Gerhard Richter contemporary artwork painting
Gerhard Richter I.G., 1993 Oil on canvas
72 x 82.4 x 3.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Request Price & Availability
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Gerhard Richter
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Represented by these
Ocula Member Galleries

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, United States
David Zwirner Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris
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