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.