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Gerhard Richter

Born in Dresden, Germany on 9 February 1932, Gerhard Richter is widely recognized as one of this century’s greatest living artists. Richter left school after tenth grade in 1948 to serve as an apprentice in advertising and stage-set painting with his sight set on a career as an artist. In 1951, Richter continued his professional training at the Dresden Academy of Arts. In these early days of his career he created murals at the DAA that were incredibly powerful and moving – so much so that after the Berlin Wall was raised, the government in East Berlin painted over them. Before this point, however, Richter worked as a master trainee at the academy, taking orders from the communist state.

When he escaped to West Germany in 1961, just months before the Berlin Wall was erected, Richter began studying with renowned artists such as Sigmar Pole, Konrad Leug, and Gotthard Graupner at the Dusseldorf Academy of Arts. It was with these brilliant artists that he developed a painting term, Capitalistic Realism, an anti-style of art the commented on consumer-driven artwork of western capitalism.

In 1964, Richter has his first solo show at Galerie Schmela in Dusseldorf and was soon attracting attention and invitations to hold exhibitions in Munich and Berlin; in the early 1970s, he was showing his work throughout Europe and North America. Richter enjoyed reaching those who were passionate about art around the world, eventually teaching as a visiting professor at art academies in Hamburg and Nova Scotia before returning to the Dusseldorf Art Academy in 1971, where he served as a professor for the next decade and a half. He has since relocated to Cologne, where he continues to create, teach, and exhibit art. Richter has published a number of catalogues, monographs, and books of his artwork and notes on painting, and has been awarded many honors and prizes for his art, including the Wolf Prize in Art (1994/5).

The recognition Gerhard Richter has received is well-earned. With a unique style of composition and creation, Richter creates artwork unlike any other. For many of his paintings, he begins with a photograph that he found or took himself. He projects the image onto a canvas to trace it and then paints a replication of it, often using the same color palette as the photograph. He then uses his signature “blurring” style, softening the lines or aggressively smearing them, creating a piece that is both a tribute to the original image and marred – or improved – in some personal way. In his abstract work, Richter follows a similar process, albeit with more cumulative layers and using blurring, and scraping to veil and expose the layers. Richter explains some of the process in his work as “letting a thing come, rather than creating it.”