Richter Gerhard

Abstraction 100x80 cm, oil, canvas, 1983
Date of Birth: 1932
Place of residence: Cologne

Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 in Dresden. German visual artist. Richter released abstract, photorealistic paintings, as well as photographs and fragments of glass.

In 1948, at the age of 16, Richter dropped out of formal education and took a student as a production designer for the theater. The war was traumatic for Richter: two uncles died in the fighting, and his father lost his job. This family turmoil, combined with the artist’s early artistic training in postwar communist ideology, eventually led Richter to seek his creative inspiration in nature over any political or religious affairs or philosophies.

From 1951, Richter studied at the Kunstakademie (Dresden), where he painted murals and political banners for state-owned enterprises. During this time, the East German communist regime imposed a style of socialist realism on all practicing artists; this policy actually turned art into a service of political propaganda. In line with this development, the government has banned exhibitions of American pop and flux. These circumstances severely limited Richter’s new artistic style, as he was commissioned to paint only landscapes.

Two years later, during a visit to West Germany in 1959, Richter discovered the work of contemporary artists Jackson Pollock, Lucio Fontana. Pollock’s spray on the canvas had a profound effect on Richter, provoking him to reflect on his own artistic ideology.

In 1961, just before the government officially closed the Berlin Wall, Richter moved to Düsseldorf. Re-enrolling in the local Kunstakademie, Richter intended to work in a more unhindered, avant-garde style; in the process of rethinking his approach to the creation of art, he deliberately destroyed many of his early paintings of the 1950s and 1960s.

Continuing to paint realistically, around 1961, Richter began using photographs, projecting and tracking images directly on the canvas. Richter believed that he, as an artist, “does not paint a specific person, but a picture that has nothing to do with the model.” Thus, although he drew people from photographs, Richter’s replicative images were often blurred and had nothing clear about the subject, forcing the viewer to consider the main components of the painting itself, such as composition, color scheme, and so on. Instead of leaving the viewer to identify with the content of the picture or its emotional element of “humanity”, or to be distracted by it.

Eventually, frustrated with the need to pursue abstraction or figuration, Richter decided to focus on the detailed opportunities that emerged in the process of drawing. Using the same method as in his representative paintings, Richter began to blur, comb and hide various painted layers on his new canvases.

In 1966, he created a series of gray paintings that differed in compositional structure and application of paint, rather than a realistic theme. Richter applied the paint with thick strokes, or rollers, and aggressively squeezing the squeegee (ironically, a tool commonly used to clean windows). In this particular work, Richter minimized the visual impact of realistic images in favor of the spontaneous, gestural illusion of space.

In 1971, Richter became a professor at the Art Academy. This marks the beginning of his painting “color chart”, in which he systematically applied square shades of solid color on large canvases. During this time, Richter was widely criticized for his outright refusal to identify with a particular artistic movement, as well as for his apparent reluctance to acknowledge various social and political issues related to the Nazi regime of World War II.

Richter adopted the title “Abstraction of Painting” in 1976 as common to all subsequent paintings, a step that actually forced viewers to interpret the work without explanation provided by the artist.

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