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born in 1932
Gerhard Richter (German: Gerhard Richter, born February 9, 1932, Dresden, Germany) is a contemporary German painter recognized as one of the most influential living artists.

Features of the work of Gerhard Richter. Richter came to artistic maturity at a difficult moment in history, when contemporary art and global politics reached historical “milestones” in their development. He combines his education in the field of socialist realism with more conceptually complex, avant-garde developments that came from Europe and the USA. The new generation increasingly proclaimed the “death of painting", more interested in the conceptual potential of art than in mastering the long tradition of craftsmanship. Richter, on the other hand, demonstrated that painting can still seriously question all images, regardless of their source, be it the media, film, Internet, ubiquitous commercial advertising, or even a family photo album. The artist combines two sides: history and almost photographic imagery on the one hand, as well as the crisis of figurativeness and the desire for absolute abstraction - on the other. Richter does not consider himself to be either a "realist", or a "minimalist", or a "conceptualist", even following all these trends. He has created a number of extremely beautiful images and maintains a very high level of fine art.

Famous works of Gerhard Richter. “Ema (Naked on the stairs)”, Cathedral Square, Milan, "Betty",“1024 colors” from the series “Color Scale”, cycle “Abstract Painting”, stained glass window of Cologne Cathedral.


Gerhard Richter was born into a family of a high school teacher and bookseller. His interest in art began to take shape after World War II. The mother encouraged her son to read, and it was a huge supply of illustrated books that prompted the boy to draw. In an interview, the artist said that he learned about art “from books and from small folios with artistic prints [...] I remember Diego Velazquez, Albrecht Durer, Lovisa Corint". One of his early sketches made at age 14 was a nude copy from a book, to which his parents reacted with pride and embarrassment.

In 1951, Richter entered the Higher School of Fine Arts in Dresden. “It was a very traditional, academic school in which we studied on gypsum copies and nude models,” he recalled. “Socialist realism was at the forefront, and the Dresden Academy was especially strict in this regard.” The study of modernist experiments was prohibited, but there were exceptions.Pablo Picasso and Renato GuttusoFor example, the authorities suffered for their frank support for communism.

The turning point in Richter's career was a visit to documenta II in Kassel in 1959. There he saw work Jackson Pollock,Luch Fountains and Jean Fotrier, as “an expression of a completely different and completely new content,” realized the creative prohibitions imposed on him. This and a new round of the Cold War forced the artist and his wife Emu to flee from East Germany to West Germany in March 1961.

Despite the fact that Richter had already graduated from the Academy in Dresden, he decided to enter the State Academy of Arts in Dusseldorf. “I tried everything I could,” he says, describing his work at that time as “changing in style between Dubuffet, Giacometti,Tapies and many others. ” The artist destroyed most of the experiments of that time.

At the academy, Richter made friends with Sigmar Polke, Conrad Fisher and Blinky Palermo. They staged a joint exhibition in May 1963 in an empty store in the old center of Düsseldorf. And in October there was an exposition in the furniture store of the city, where the authors presented the results of their creative searches under the mocking title “Life in the style of pop. Demonstration of capitalist realism. " This exhibition aroused considerable interest and embodied the energy, curiosity, humor and spirit inherent in Richter and his comrades.

Richter's paintings began to show interest in current events, consumer society, the media, and popular culture. In the early works that laid the foundation for the artist's professional career, the use of photographic images was a decisive breakthrough, which was previously unthinkable for him and for academic painting. It was this approach that marked his work in the following decades.

1966 was the key year for Richter. He began to exhibit not only in Germany but also abroad, and also created one of his most famous works, “Ema (Naked on the Stairs)” and began a series of geometric abstractions called “Color Scale” (1, 2, 3, 4) Geometric elements are firmly entrenched in his work and reappeared, for example, in the design of the stained glass window of Cologne Cathedral in 2007. In 1968, Richter drew attention to urban landscapes. The canvas "Cathedral Square, Milan" was followed by views of Madrid, Paris and other cities.

In 1972, Richter represented Germany at the 36th Venice Biennale. For the first time during the existence of this forum, a single pavilion was provided to one artist. For the Biennale, Richter createda series of "48 portraits" with images of famous people of the two previous centuries - scientists, composers, philosophers and writers - using photographs from the encyclopedia as source material.

By the end of the 1970s, a cycle of colorful abstract works was developed, signed simply “Abstract painting” (Abstraktes Bild - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) For a while, gray and brown colors in the artist’s palette were replaced by bold and bright colors on different patterns, textures, surfaces and in various techniques. They offered an energetic study of optics and perception, planes, depth, space, shape, color and light. This was a significant stage in Richter's work and laid the foundations for future directions of work - such series as Sinbad (1, 2, 3, 4), Aladdin (1, 2, 3, 4) and Cage (1, 2, 3).

In 1988, Richter made a series of paintings in a completely new direction. "October 18, 1977" (1, 2, 3, 4) Are images related to the day when several members of the Red Army Faction radical group were found dead in prison. Their death was declared suicide, although a number of circumstances indicated that they could be eliminated. The Richter series of grisaille paintings depicts key moments of the events that led to their death. According to the artist, there is no politics in his works, he was struck by "the public aspirations of these people ... the awesome power of the idea, for which it is not a pity to die."

In the same year, Richter wrote another work, which became his "calling card" - a portrait of Betty's daughter. She is depicted in a red and white cardigan with a hood or a dressing gown with a floral pattern, turned away from the viewer into a dark gray void, which upon closer inspection turns out to be one of the abstract paintings of her father.

By the end of the 1980s, Richter became one of the most prominent artists in Germany and the world. In 2002, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a major retrospective of his work entitled “Forty Years of Painting”. The exhibition includes 190 works - this is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of the artist to date.

In 2012, Gerhard Richter became the most expensive living artist when his Abstract Painting (809-4) (1994) went under the hammer for $ 34 million. He repeated the record twice - first in 2013, selling Cathedral Square, Milan for $ 37.1 million, and then in 2015, when they paid $ 44.52 million at the auction for Abstract Painting (1986). Now the painter lives and works in Cologne. His works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London and the Albertina in Vienna.

As one of the most influential living artists, Richter is actively involved in a global dialogue about the future and goals of art. Even having celebrated the 80th anniversary in 2012, he continues to work actively and develop various areas of his work.

See also: “A beautiful culture is broken and we cannot recreate it” - Gerhard Richter reflects on creativity, religion and faith in Prada

Author: Vlad Maslov


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