Skip to content

Gerhard Richter was born on February 9, 1932 in the East German town of Dresden, whose culture and charm were obliterated by the war. He grew up in the nearby village of Oberlausitz where his father was a schoolteacher. He was a gifted child artistically, but not a good student. As a young man he earned a living making posters and set designs and from 1952-56 he studied Socialist Realism, the official school of painting in East Germany, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden. A few years later he was to receive another, very different education, from Karl Otto Gotz, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf, in Abstract Expressionism. Richter’s move to West Germany in 1961 occurred only two months before the Berlin Wall went up.

A decade of libertarian and licentious excess along with prosperity accompanied a period of blurred-photo paintings, particularly in a series depicting women in erotic but awkward poses. The colorful and lively canvases that Richter began in the mid-70s offer completely new views of the non-objective world. Here was a German painter betting exclusively on light and color, abandoning the sort of Teutonic motifs that characterize the paintings of most other German painters.

The artist keeps music on hand where he works; there’s a stereo or a radio in each of the studios which also hold different kinds of work in progress. Many of them were not resolved to his satisfaction; he is a painter who continues to question the world. Richter was married three times: his first wife whose name was Ema posed for his version of Nude Descending a Staircase; she was also the mother of his first child, Betty, who was born in 1966. His second wife was the sculptor Isa Genzken who was the subject of several portraits and nude studies. Richter was married for the third time at the age of sixty to a promising young student who had entered his class at the Dusseldorf Art Academy shortly before he retired in 1994. He and Sabine Moritz are the parents of a boy and a girl; they paint together also.

Sources include:
The Melancholist of Virtuosity by Michael Hubl in ARTnews, February, 1989
A Brush With Pop, an art review in L.A. Times, April 6, 2002
Article in ARTnews, November 1996
Quick-Change Master by David Galloway in ARTnews, March 2002

Compiled and written by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher of Laguna Woods, California.

Biography from the Archives of AskART.