Gerhard Richter Decke, 1988 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 200 x 140 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin at Hamburger Kunsthalle
Gerhard Richter Eule, 1982 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 225 x 294 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin at Hamburger Kunsthalle
Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild, 1988 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 200 x 160 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin
Gerhard Richter Familie Schmidt, 1964 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 125 x 130 cm Courtesy Collection Elisabeth and Gerhard Sohst in the Hamburger Kunsthalle
Gerhard Richter Volker Bradke, 1966 16 mm film on DVD, 15' Courtesy Gerhard Richter Archiv - Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Gerhard Richter Wilhelmshaven, 1969 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 50 x 70 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin at Hamburger Kunsthalle
Gerhard Richter Brücke (am Meer), 1969 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 93 x 98 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin at Hamburger Kunsthalle
Gerhard Richter Stadtbild Sa (219/1), 1969 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 124 x 124 cm Fondazione MAXXI - Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo
Gerhard Richter Porträt Liz Kertelge, 1966 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 65 x 70 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin at Hamburger Kunsthalle
To create Eule (1982), Richter used a draft sketch consisting of several different layers of paint, expanding a part of it and playing on the possibility (or rather, on the impossibility) of reproducing paint. Krems (1986), on the other hand, displays abstract gestural expressiveness overlapping an initial image which, while concealed, is nevertheless still partially visible. In Abstraktes Bild(1988) Richter has now completely cancelled out the figurative subject with a painting consisting of countless overlapping layers of colour. In contrast to this, we then find a work such as Schädel mit Kerze (1983), a memento in a meditative style of painting that is reminiscent of 17th century art and a far cry from contemporary abstraction. Richter's work reveals an ongoing debate with very different genres and techniques, failing to reflect any kind of linear chronological development. His style is based on the absence of certainties and rules. A work such as Canaletto(1990) sums up these features thanks to the overlapping of several different layers of paint that end up forming an object which does not depict the world but which is a reality in its own right.
Decke (1988) is linked to a cycle called 18. Oktober 1977, devoted to the suicide of the members of the German terrorist group known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang. The initial painting (showing the hanging body of Gudrun Ensslin, based on a photograph carried in the German press) is covered by a layer of white applied over it. In keeping with the ambiguity of the work's title (‘Decke’ means both deck and ceiling), Richter conceals the subject of the picture and leaves only a handful of recognisable elements including, of course, the room's ceiling.
Wilhelmshavenand Brücke (am Meer) (1969) demonstrate the artist's commitment to landscape painting. Richter produces paintings on the basis of photographs of real places, emulating the features of the photographic image and pushing painting's linguistic potential to an extreme. Part of a series of views of neighbourhoods or details of anonymous buildings in cities, Stadtbild Sa (1969) lies midway between abstraction and figurative art by virtue of the way in which Richter applies paint in dabs or broad brushstrokes, and of the novel, raised viewpoint he adopts which is so different from the traditional head-on perspective typical of easel painting.
Familie Schmidt (1964) and Porträt Liz Kertelge (1966) are examples of the so-called Fotobilder (‘photographic paintings’) that he produced by reworking photographic models projected by an episcope onto a white ground in paint: one, a normal family album snap with a mother, a father and their children sitting on the sofa at home; the other, the portrait of a movie star. Through a process involving the transformation of painting, the original photographic images lose their objectivity, acquiring a blurred effect that highlights not so much the content but the value of the image per se, producing a kind of translation from one medium to another. In Volker Bradke (1966), on the other hand, the blurrred effect is achieved directly through the use of a video, the only video the artist has ever produced, portraying one of Richter's friends who was a leading light in Düsseldorf cultural life in the sixties. Richter highlights the difference between the subjective experience of reality and its real objectivity. The image may be an object but it is not objective; it develops on the level of perception and of its nuances.
Gerhard Richter has devoted his entire artistic career to the search for what we might call the essence of image, where the image is no longer a representation of reality but the creation of a reality in its own right. Reflecting on the value of images in today's world, he cites contemporary visual repertoire, such as media images, but at the same time he also uses private photographs or genre subjects and themes as the foundation material for his reflection on painting.
Gerhard Richter Krems, 1986 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 72 x 102 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin at Hamburger Kunsthalle
Gerhard Richter Schädel mit Kerze, 1983 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 100 x 150 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin at Hamburger Kunsthalle
Gerhard Richter Canaletto, 1990 Olio su tela / Oil on canvas 2 pannelli / 2 panels ognuno / each 250 x 175 cm totale / total 250 x 350 cm Courtesy Collection Böckmann, Berlin at Hamburger Kunsthalle