The Reader

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Gerhard Richter-Lesende (The Reader) 1994 
A truly astounding and disorienting masterpiece by the German virtuoso of latter 20th and early 21th century art, Gerhard Richter. What appears to be at first glance to be an artistic photograph, albeit a sublime one, of Richter’s beautiful third wife Sabine Moritz reading a newspaper, turns to wonderment and awe when you realise that this is actually an oil painting on canvas. There is an absolute perfection of the reproduction of the original image in a different media, a dizzying illusionism that questions our perception of art and consequently reality itself . The gorgeousness of the play of light across the sweep of the neck and shoulders, combined with the serenity of expression and the unquestioned technical mastery is worthy of Vermeer, an acknowledged inspiration.

Richter, who is quoted as saying that he is a Surrealist, has painted in a bewildering array of styles during his career that has spanned over 60 years. As well as his hyper-realist and photo-realistic paintings he has painted abstracts, monochromes and landscapes. Over the last five years his work have fetched the highest prices of any living artist. The Museum Ludwig in Cologne, a city Richter has resided in since 1983 holds a large collection of his work and is currently holding an exhibition of a series of 26 abstracts painted in 2015.

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90 thoughts on “The Reader

      1. It’s incredible. I wish my brain could “see” that way. Have you ever heard of an artist named Sienna Morris? She is Portland, OR based and does something called “numberism art.” It is completely drawn using tiny numbers to create the images, and some of them are quite complex in design and theory. Here is her Etsy store. She also sells in person at the farmers market in Portland. https://www.etsy.com/shop/SiennaMorris

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      2. I love that one, too. To see them in person blows the mind…need a magnifying glass to see the numbers in detail. She’s quite gifted. And there is definite surreality in her work I thought you’d enjoy.

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  1. Right! This is off the chart. I’m sure the superlatives are just enough. So you went to this exhibition? Fabulous. I am eternally jealous of Europeans and the ease with which it is to visit all these incredible places and see all the history and art. This really is outstanding!

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    1. I haven’t seen the exhibition of the abstracts however the museum (which is one of the best modern art museums in the world, with a great collection of Pop Art and Nouveau Realisme) has a lot of Richter (unsurprisingly) and has the incredible portrait of his daughter Betty in the red and white jacket-same technique. It is disorienting, I have no idea how anyone could so speelbindingly paint like that.

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      1. Well his hyper-realist work is slightly outside the scope of my usual posts, regardless of his quote about being a surrealist, but they have haunted me. Astounding…I like superrlatives if they are deserved.

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      2. He called himself a surrealist, as well as a capitalist realist. Ernst is from Cologne (though Richter is from Dusseldorf) and don’t forget that Dali in particular used a proto-hyperr-realist style. I think he used it in the context of his illusionism which automatically raises the question of reality and a greater than reality, if that makes sense.

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      3. Um, alright let me see if I get it and you can correct me if I’m wrong. You’re saying Dali’s images were realistic until they sort of morphed into the illusory images? Like the famous melting clock? The clock is realistic until it melts… that kind of thing?

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      1. Yes it does. I may post again about his other photo-realist work. I prefer this work to the monochromes and abstracts, but I always have a preference for the figurative, although I do like some abstract painting and monochromes (Yves Klein in particular for monochromes and Matta for abstracts).

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      2. Well I would very much enjoy more of these. And even though this is so real – the disorienting effect of being a painting rather than a photograph – that is totally in the realm of Cake.

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  2. Wow, that is amazing! Did he work from a photo he took? This reminds me of two things- I once saw an absolutely incredible photo realistic painting of Morgan Freeman and was in awe and also there is a sculptor, Ron Mueck, who makes extremely realistic people in normal everyday circumstances and they are just so superb. He sometimes varies size in such a way that it’s completely mind boggling because they look so real. I saw his exhibit in Texas a long time ago.

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    1. Thank you Vic, it is amazing. I think Richter pretty much invented this style of painting, he did work of a photograph, I believe he always works of photographs, sometimes he just overpaints parts. I will check out the sculptor you mentioned. Glad you enjoyed.

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      1. He did women descending a staircase and then nude descending a staircase, both of which are a play on Duchamp’s Nude descending a staircase from 1913 at the armoury show in Mew York, a landmark In Modernism.

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      2. But you know what? It’s not useless. You’re actually educating a lot of people. I didn’t learn anything like this in my life and I think most adults can say the same thing apart from artists or art majors. At least I think so. Plus it’s really nice to hear people with such a genuine enthusiasm for a topic.

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  3. There was a show of his work a few years ago in Edinburgh. It’s a show I’ve always remembered for its scale and strangeness. One room of copies of German post-war postcards. The main room taken up with giant streaky abstractions. A room of grey slabs. For a long time my desktop background was his black and white painting of three people in a speedboat. Mysterious stuff.

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      1. I’ve never seen Reader before, but who hasn’t seen Betty? I can see the surrealist connection in how he reveals hidden subtexts. The early black and whites, for example, being loaded with anxieties and hopes in a country trapped by trying to escape (or at least bracket off) its recent past. And the smudging of photorealism with sfumato helps with all this. At the same time, I imagine Breton would have found a clever anagram of the artist that relates to his blue-chip sales.

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      2. Very true, Breton would have certainly come up with something. Not sure it would be entirely fair in Richtet’s case, he is certainly not as cynically market driven as Koons or Hirst, but he has certainly done well out of it all. Betty is a great painting.

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  4. A true masterpiece. What a wonderful painting! Absolutely fabulous. I’m in Bonn right now and I can’t believe it, so very many people waiting to get into Museum Ludwig to see his work.

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