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Gerhard Richter Portraits: Painting Appearances

Overview

“Appearance, semblance is the theme of my life.” This statement by Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) suggests the importance of portraiture to his career. One of the greatest artists working today, Richter has been intensively engaged with portraiture since 1962. His portraits invite critical consideration of both portraiture and painting; they include images of specific people—whether sensational subjects of people in the media, icons of the popular imagination, or close friends and relatives. However, all are transformed when Richter puts them onto

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2009 Hardcover New 0300151594. Flawless copy, brand new, pristine, never opened--Text in English. 176 pp. With 100 col. Ills. 34 x 25 cm.

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Overview

“Appearance, semblance is the theme of my life.” This statement by Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) suggests the importance of portraiture to his career. One of the greatest artists working today, Richter has been intensively engaged with portraiture since 1962. His portraits invite critical consideration of both portraiture and painting; they include images of specific people—whether sensational subjects of people in the media, icons of the popular imagination, or close friends and relatives. However, all are transformed when Richter puts them onto canvas, for they often become anonymous in the process or become significant simply for being included. Richter’s investigation into how we understand what surrounds us is at the heart of all his work.

In this large-scale book—ideal for Richter’s portraits—Paul Moorhouse offers a major advance in the understanding and appreciation of the renowned artist’s work. With keen insight, Moorhouse studies the portraits in close detail, examining the sophisticated ways in which Richter has challenged and extended the genre of portraiture and revealing the startling range of the artist’s source material.

Featuring never-before-published images, this book clearly eclipses any previous publication on Richter’s portraiture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

German-born artist Richter's oeuvre has consistently been marked by a remarkable heterogeneity of style, palette, and subjects-always defiant of labels or associations with specific schools of painting. Since his 1961 escape from East Germany, portraiture has been a touchstone, often with expanded strategies of visual representation. By the late 1960s, Richter was exploring the relationship between photography and painting with an adumbrated, obscurely indicated style while incorporating the sense of momentary happenstance contained within a snapshot. His blurred imagery is like an elusive, hazy photorealism, loaded with a significance the viewer can't easily name, reminiscent of Robert Capa's Omaha Beach photographs. And it is in his portraits that this method is at its most compelling. Moorhouse, a curator at London's National Portrait Gallery, has written detailed biocritical essays that run through this oversized and heavily illustrated book, placing Richter both in an artistic and a historical context while championing the beauty and inherent iconoclasm of the portraits themselves. Despite having a focus narrower than Robert Storr's 2002 monograph, this title is an excellent supplementary purchase for all large libraries.
—Douglas F. Smith

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300151596
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2009
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 13.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Moorhouse is Twentieth-Century Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    "Appearance, semblance is the theme of my life." Gerhard Richter and Portraiture

    Gerhard Richter has had a long and successful career in the contemporary art world: from the 1960s on he has been a formidable force in the art world, working with fellow artists Sigmar Polke, Georg Baselitz, and Konrad Fischer-Leug, veering away form the pop art and performance movements to concentrate on painting. Feeling that his paintings should focus on the image rather than the reference of art history. His 'signature' in his art was blurred paintings, using photography openly as his stimulus. 'These blurred paintings of photographs are close to reality but also contain a nostalgic distance, because the eye can never precisely capture the image being viewed, rather like trying to remember the features of a person whom one hasn't seen for a while. Only the outline is remembered, and the rest blurred. With his photo-based paintings of regular images, Richter has tried to subvert the hierarchy of art and the everyday'. Richter has been quote as saying "I believe in nothing", and yet his continued painting of portraits appears to decry that statement.

    This beautifully designed and book focuses solely on the portraits that cover the span of his creative life thus far. His images, both in black and white and in color, range from near abstract to near photorealistic. His subjects range from children to the elderly, from manipulated images that remind us of concentration camp victims to faces that appear more at home on police arrest documents. The range of works, given the fact that these are all portraits, is startling, so rich is his ability to make something of very little. The use of photography is evident in many of the works but in no way disguises the mastery of paint Richter so deftly uses. He appears to be less interested in narrative statements than he is in projecting ideas to the viewer, ideas that may mutate from person to person depending on the life experiences of each new viewer.

    There is written word as one would expect in what was indeed an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. But the emphasis of this book is rightfully on the paintings themselves. These are reproduced with care on high quality paper. The book itself is impressive and is a welcome addition to the books available on this important 20th to 21st century artist.

    Grady Harp

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