Over the course of his acclaimed 60-year career, Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) has employed both representation and abstraction as a means of reckoning with the legacy, collective memory, and national sensibility of post–Second World War Germany, in both broad and very personal terms.
This handsomely designed book features approximately 100 of his key canvases, from photo paintings created in the early 1960s to portraits and later large-scale abstract series, as well as select works in glass.
New essays by eminent scholars address a variety of themes: Sheena Wagstaff evaluates the conceptual import of the artist’s technique; Benjamin H. D. Buchloh discusses the poignant Birkenau paintings (2014); Peter Geimer explores the artist’s enduring interest in photographic imagery; Briony Fer looks at Richter’s family pictures against traditional painting genres and conventions; Brinda Kumar investigates the artist’s engagement with landscape as a site of memory; André Rottmann considers the impact of randomization and chance on Richter’s abstract works; and Hal Foster examines the glass and mirror works. As this book demonstrates, Richter’s rich and varied oeuvre is a testament to the continued relevance of painting in contemporary art.
Metropolitan Museum of Art website
Gerhard Richter was born in Dresden on 9th February 1932, the first child of Horst and Hildegard Richter. A daughter, Gisela, followed four years later. They were in many respects an average middle-class family: Horst worked as a teacher at a secondary school in Dresden and Hildegard was a bookseller who liked to play the piano.1 In an interview with Robert Storr, Richter described his early family life as “simple, orderly, structured – mother playing the piano and father earning money.”2
In 1935, Horst accepted a teaching position at a school in Reichenau, a town which today is known as Bogatynia in Poland, at the time located in the German province Saxony. Settling in Reichenau was a drastic change for the family, which was accustomed to the vivid cultural life of the larger Dresden.3 Yet, it was also a move which would keep the family largely safe from the coming war. In the late 1930s Horst was conscripted into the German army, captured by Allied forces and detained as a prisoner of war until Germany’s defeat. In 1946, he was released and returned to his family, who had again relocated, this time to Waltersdorf, a village on the Czech border.