Gerhard Richter-Schwestern 1967
The German artist Gerhard Richter is famous for the astounding hyper-realism of his photo-pictures (see The Reader), smudged interpretations of various masterpieces by the Old Masters (see Bathers) and a truly breath-taking versatility, however his greatest contribution to painting is probably  his introduction of the blur in pictorial representation. After centuries of painters seeking to reproduce nature in ever starker clarity, Richter shifts the focus, blurs the outlines and forces us to question our perceptions. Richter achieves the effect by a typically torturous route; using photographs (the invention of photography, lest we forget, was the single greatest contributing factor in the creation of all the various schools of modernism) which he then paints an exact reproduction of and then proceeds to accentuate any blurring present in the original.

1967’s Schwestern (Sisters) is a fine example of the technique (it also recently sold at Sotheby’s London for over four million dollars). The whole painting has a decided air of ambiguity, the salacious poses of the scantily clad women and their over-eager smiles is suggestive and strikingly at odds with the title. The heavy blurring only adds to the air of uncertainty as to what we are exactly witnessing.

30 thoughts on “Sisters

    1. His work lately has broken the record three times for a living artist (each time Breaking a previous record of his own). I am no expert on the art market (I am neither a Russian oligarch or employed as a buyer by one) which is just mad, though I am glad to see Richter as opposed to Hirst or Koons, two artists I despise who had a lock in the first decade of the 2000’s. Koons is a kitsch saccharine nightmare and Hirst is a shockingly bad painter, a tenth rate Bacon. Bacon, Warhol and De Kooning have the highest value of 20th century artists (not in that order) and abstract expressionism and pop art generally always maintain high price. Surrealist work have enjoyed a rebound lately to an extent after a long period of being completely unfashionable. Miro, Dali and Magritte are at the high end, with Ernst, Toyen and Giacometti all recently setting new records. But as I said it is a rarefied world.

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      1. I love the venom with which you describe Hirst and Koons! I’ll have to look them up just to see! How would you like to put ‘art buyer for Russian oligarch’ on your resume?

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      2. The Russians are huge players in the art markets. A majority of the really big purchases are conducted privately. It would look great on a resume. Hirst was the guy with the decomposing shark in a tank, he did an exhibition of paintings a couple of years back, he said that it was the first time he had picked up a paintbrush since his first year in college. The paintings themselves, all skulls and butterflies were incredibly mediocre. Plus he just seems like an absolute wanker. Koons work is a parody of Warhol at his most vacuous, Celebrity magazine worst, what is unbelievable is that people brought into it as nobody could parody Warhol better than Warhol himself. Shit like this is why people hate modern and contemporary art. As you know I not the kind of philistine that says well anyone can do that and I just like a pretty picture like Thomas Kinkade (not the painter of light but the painter of shite) but I have to draw a line somewhere.

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      3. Well, somebody’s feeling like his old self! Spiky! Very good. I kind of think some modern artists try too hard to be overly weird. That’s not the point, art has to provoke, affect, inspire if you will… at least make you feel something, think something. And not merely contempt toward the art and artist. I am going Friday afternoon to the Philly art museum. Have you ever been?

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  1. I dipped in and out today and was convinced it was a photo, not a painting. Very interesting work. Mr. Cake, you are drawing me out of the Renaissance and Baroque. It is very painful. An education, both sentimental and unsentimental, in itself. Ouch!

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    1. Sorry Roger the Renaissance and Baroque are fine places to hang out. I am learning myself as I am pretty versed in Surrealism and it’s precursors, but my knowledge of art post 1970 is limited so I am discovering works I didn’t know about it. Modernity is still effecting us, a lot of the nationalism that is coming to the fore has an explicit rejection of it at its core, though they vary as to when it commenced, and want to return to a simpler, more cleanly delineated age.

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      1. Don’t we all: Cualquier tiempo pasado fue mejot / any past time was better than now. Jorge Manrique (I hope) about 1470 or so. A better quote, for me at least, is: “No estes mano en mejilla por tiempos pasados.” Don’t sit with your head in your hands dreaming of past times. Alas, we stilld o, especially after Grand Marnier with even more pancakes on St. David’s Day.

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  2. Wow, it takes a long look to discover this isn’t actually a photograph. What a great effect. And yeah, I’d say they probably aren’t sisters…

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    1. It is a great painting… I am on a bit of a Richter kick at the moment, I am exploring past the inter war period. I like some of it while other efforts leave me cold. But if I like it I will share once I get another info and that Cake angle.

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