Through a variety of painting techniques, Gerhard Richter explores many ways to depict the world. He studies the link between photography and painting by making abstract paintings and figurative canvases using photographs he has gathered.
Richter’s early paintings were influenced by pictures from magazines and newspaper clippings. Throughout the 1960s, Richter continued to work with discovered and media pictures, including military aircraft, people, and aerial shots. He reinterpreted family images he had stolen from East Germany, particularly those of his smiling, Nazi-clad uncle Rudi and his aunt Marianne, whose murder Richter later learned had occurred in a mental institution during the Third Reich. Such nuanced moments of social and personal history looked to crackle with static as a result of Richter’s quirky blurring technique, which removed the viewer from their subjects and sparked issues about whether painting might replace photography as a mode of record.
Over the last 60 years, Richter has continued to explore the philosophical and formal resonance of photographic pictures addressing what may and cannot be depicted in his work.