• gerard van weyenbergh

Gerhard Richter, smarter than Germany

The artist has refused the city of Cologne proposal, where he has lived for almost forty years, to build a museum that is entirely dedicated to him.

He wants his work to be exhibited, but as in his case, reason prevails over ego. Richter requests that it be in the company of other artists.

In Dresden, his hometown, the Albertinum already dedicates two rooms to him. In Berlin, where, in 1961, a few months before the construction of the Wall, he was able to flee the German Democratic Republic (GDR), he will have a "dedicated" room in the museum designed by the architects Herzog & de Meuron. A donation is in progress.


Richter went through the whole history of recent Germany: child under Nazism, adolescent during the war and the bombing of Dresden, student under the Soviet occupation, then the communist regime, before settling in the capitalist West.

Currently in theaters, the movie by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Work without an author, inspired by the artist's life, reminds us of it. Journalist Jürgen Schreiber underlines how the painter shared the fate of many of his fellow citizens in the post-war period, where, in the East as in the West, victims and accomplices of the Nazis sometimes lived under the same roof, all having to rebuild the two Germans together. Through his famous series of paintings from the 1960s inspired by family photos which he reproduced and blurred, Richter had discreetly indicated it to us, as with Uncle Rudi(1965), his godfather wearing a heavy Wehrmacht coat. But the thorough investigation of Schreiber had lifted the veil on the ambivalence of the Richter family. Famous gynecologist, the father of Richter's first wife, was also a fanatic SS, having sterilized, in the name of racial purity, nearly a thousand young women before they were sent to death camps.

Held prisoner three years by the Soviets, this head of clinic was able to resume his flourishing career under the Communists and finish him brilliantly in the West, without being further worried. It is this stepfather that the artist features in the famous painting Famille à la mer(1964) and under the roof of which he lived when he was engaged. At the same time, an aunt of Gerhard Richter, declared schizophrenic, was the victim of eugenics in which this stepfather worked ardently. Aunt Marianne (1965), whom he paints from a 1932 photograph where the future martyr, smiling, stands behind a 4-month-old baby, Richter himself.


Richter has been little known about the representation of his family past, loving to repeat that his paintings are smarter than himself, wanting the public to be interested in the works and not only in their references, not wanting to be labeled during his carrier start. Le Journal des arts, 2019