Gerhard Richter belongs to the internationally most important and successful artists of the present time. He began his career at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst in Dresden (1952-57) before fleeing to West Germany in 1961 and studying under K.O. Götz at the Düsseldorf Kunstakadamie (1961-64). Together with his fellow students Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg and Manfred Kuttner he grounded the 'Kapalistischen Realismus' in 1963, which intended to break the connections with all previous artistic expressions. Important influences for Richter from that time were the emerging Fluxus movement as well as American Pop Art, where an artistic position based on reality, or rather the revaluation of the ordinary, was imminent. He began compiling the monumental compendium 'Atlas' in 1962 (Lenbachhaus, Munich); a collection of photographs, press cuttings and sketches put together by Richter which served as the basis of his pictorial ideas. Since the early 1960s, he had transferred many of the motifs from his atlas onto canvas, and then alienated the once photo-realistic images by blurring the paint. From this arose key works of contemporary painting such as 'Ema (Akt auf einer Treppe)' from 1966 (Museum Ludwig, Cologne), or the portrait of his daughter 'Betty' (1988, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis). Alongside the use of 'trivial' images from the mass media or from his personal surroundings, Richter repeatedly addressed politically charged themes. For example with the RAF-cycle '18 Oktober 1977' (Museum of Modern Art, New York), he delivered an important contribution towards the analysis of recent German post war history.
Richter's oeuvre is characterised by a pronounced stylistic versatility, which the artist resolutely follows through in all directions. However, one issue remains core: the only subject of painting is painting. From the mid-1970s, Richter turned more towards abstraction producing various groups of work such as the squeegeed 'Abstrakten Bilder' or the geometric 'Farbtafeln'. In his ‘over-painted photographs’ since 1989 the artist has furthermore explored richly contrasting combinations of colour and subject matter. Editions have featured in Richter's work since the mid-60s, beginning with eight screen prints worked over by hand ('Hund' 1965). Many further examples such as the 'Pyramide' from 1966 or the 'Vermalungen' from 1971 and 1972 are witness to Richter's intense engagement with the idea of the original, or unicum, and clarify the meaning of the editions within Richter's complete artistic development. In 2007, Gerhard Richter completed the south transept window of the Cologne cathedral, one of his largest and most prestigious projects.
From 1971 to 1993, Gerhard Richter was Professor of painting at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. His work has been displayed in numerous national and international exhibitions. In 1972 Richter painted '48 Porträts' (Museum Ludwig, Cologne) for the German pavilion at the 36. Venice Biennale. Included amongst the large retrospectives of recent years are 'Gerhard Richter. Panorama' (2011/2012), London Tate Modern; Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou) and 'Gerhard Richter. Bilder/Serien' (2014, Riehen, Foundation Beyeler). The artist has received numerous prestigious awards including the Kaiserring of the city of Goslar (1988) and the Praemium Imperiale (1977) of the Japan Art Association. He has lived and worked in Cologne since 1983.