Gerhard Richter

48 Portraits (1971 - 1972 / 1998)

About this artwork

This is one of four photographic sets of ‘48 Portraits’ that Richter made in 1998. It is based on the paintings of the same title that he made for the German Pavilion in the 1972 Venice Biennale. Richter had long had the idea of painting a series of famous men; being nominated to represent Germany and show in the neo-classical building in Venice gave him the opportunity he needed. Richter based his painting on the black and white photographic images of famous men of letters, philosophers and scientists that he found in various encyclopaedia and dictionaries. Richter avoided artists, because he did not wish to set up a canon of his artistic forefathers. He has simplified the backgrounds and, to some extent, the figures, so that they have as much formal similarity as possible.

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  • title: 48 Portraits
  • accession number: AR00025
  • artist: Gerhard RichterGerman (born 1932)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Photograph
  • medium: Aluminium
  • date created: 1971 - 1972 / 1998
  • measurements: Each: 68.9 cm x 53.9 cm x 2.8 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © Gerhard Richter
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter

Richter was born in Dresden, where he studied from 1952 to 1957. In 1961 he settled in Düsseldorf, where he studied under Joseph Beuys. In 1963 he began using images from press photographs and amateur snapshots in his paintings, deliberately blurring them in order to undermine and challenge the boundaries of painting and photography. In the early 1970s Richter explored theoretical ideas about colour in a series of colour charts. In a similar systematic way he made a large number of grey paintings in which he experimented with texture and brushstrokes. Since the late 1970s Richter has painted an ongoing series of colourful abstractions and alternated these with painstakingly accurate renderings in paint of photographs of landscapes, people and still lifes.