Sunday, July 25, 2010
Note on Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting
Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting by Dietmar Elger
This book has been faulted for not delving too deep into Richter. But I don't see that as a big fault. It's part of the life-cycle of biography. First we have an official biography--and that is what this is. Elger is the director of the Gerhard Richter Archive and was Richter's secretary for a time. He had Richter's participation. Given this, the book could have been a complete whitewash, but it doesn't seem that way. What it does focus on, not surprisingly, is the work. Richter's personal life is outlined but not delved into. Now the next stage of biography for Richter will be an unofficial biography, probably after Richter's death, and it will be much more personal. That's the way it goes.
So should you wait for this next biography? Richter is 78 years old, so it might be many years before a "definitive" biography is written. But more important is that Elger's book is really good. It is substantial and beautifully illustrated. He does a good job of explaining Richter's various approaches to painting (and changes in style) over his career. He is good at describing the artistic scene in Germany, especially in the 1960s. And while he doesn't delve too deeply into Richter's personal life, he does deal with the way that Richter has a series of artistic interlocutors who important influences him--Sigmar Polke (who he met at Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the early '60s), Blinky Palermo, and his second wife Isa Genzken.
I've always liked Richter's paintings, and I feel I have a better understanding of them after reading this book. The book is beautiful and full of information about one of Germany's greatest artists.
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