Retrospective Details Four Decades of Artist Richter′s Work | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 19.01.2008
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Retrospective Details Four Decades of Artist Richter's Work

A retrospective of Gerhard Richter's work opens at a Baden-Baden museum on Saturday, Jan. 19. It's curated by the artist himself and includes more than 60 paintings from Germany's top selling contemporary painter.

Gerhard Richter's color chips on show in Düsseldorf

Richter's work has been shown in Germany but not in as much depth as the retrospective

The artworks exhibited at the Museum Frieder Burda have been lent by rich private collectors and some come from Richter's own private collection. They detail the development in the German's art over the past four decades.

After training in communist East Germany and moving to the west to make his home in Cologne, Richter shot to fame with photo-realist paintings created by projecting a self-made photograph onto the canvas, tracing the outline and coloring the painting from the photo's own palette.

It was during this period where Richter created his hallmark "blur" effect, the softening by the light touch of a soft brush or squeegee to the outlines of the image.

Photo-realism and abstraction brought fame

A section of the Cologne Cathedral window, designed by Richter

A section of Richter's Cologne cathedral window

Moving onto abstract art, Richter experimented with non-representational painting, allowing the images to develop over time, changing mood and even meaning through periods of inactivity.

This approach resulted in a formula he adopted for most of the latter years of the 20th century, using spontaneous, reactive gestures of adding, moving, and subtracting paint as well as the scraping and blurring used in his photo-realist paintings.

His paintings are now much sought after. However, only millionaires can afford his work today due his levitation in standing and scarcity of artwork brought on by the unwillingness of owners to sell once they own an original Richter. Richter's 1963 "Düsenjäger" (jet fighter) painting sold for a record-setting 7.6 million euros ($11.1 million) at an auction in New York last November.

The Baden-Baden show is the latest major retrospective of his work after those held in the United States in 1988 and 2001.

Cologne Cathedral window controversy

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter with one of his abstract paintings

Richter made the headlines recently when his abstract stained-glass window in Cologne Cathedral, one of the country's most venerable public buildings, caused controversy.

Entitled "Projection of Digital Image Noise," the window -- 11,500 colored glass squares suggesting an over-magnified digital image -- was a gift from Richter who said the image was in fact based on a picture of a 1974 painting, "4,096 Colors."

It replaced a window that showed kings and bishops and was wrecked by bombing in the Second World War.

While tourists have streamed to see the window and the cathedral board praised the work, the current Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, sniffed that it was too abstract and would have better suited a mosque.

The Baden-Baden retrospective runs until April 27.

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