The first full-scale monographic study in English of one of the most important artists of the second half of the twentieth century.
In this first full-scale monograph in English on the German painter Gerhard Richter, the distinguished art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh maps the unfolding of Richter's ever more complex and contradictory lifework. A painter in an age that disdains painting, a German confronting the impossibility of representing the historical trauma inflicted by his country upon the world between 1933 and 1945, a European artist in dialogue with his American counterparts, Richter (b. 1932) is shown by Buchloh to be a unique and singular artist, outside and beyond every other formation contemporaneous with his own development and evolution.
What emerges from Buchloh's detailed analysis of Richter's key works is a far more complex set of painterly strategies than has been previously assumed, strategies that have inverted and relativized all the principles of the modernist and even the postmodernist painterly aesthetic. In a series of essays that proceeds chronologically, Buchloh begins with Elbe (1957), viewing it as a foundational moment in Richter's confrontation with Socialist Realism, and goes on to consider such works as October 18, 1977 (1988), the series of representational photo-based paintings of Baader-Meinhof members; Richter's glass works; and the late group of Birkenau Paintings (2014). Richly illustrated in color, dense with insights that represent half a lifetime of engagement with Richter's work, this book will stand as the definitive examination of a major contemporary artist.
Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, an art historian and critic, served as the Andrew W. Mellon Research Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at Harvard University through 2021. He is the author of Gerhard Richter: Painting After the Subject of History (2022); Formalism and Historicity: Models and Methods in Twentieth-Century Art (2015); and Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975. He was co-curator of the Gerhard Richter retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum/Met Breuer, New York in 2020. In 2007 Buchloh received the Golden Lion for Contemporary Art History and Criticism at the Venice Biennale.
“This long-awaited monograph is a rare thing and the remarkable result of a lifetime's close personal and critical involvement with the work of Gerhard Richter. The sheer brilliance of Buchloh's writing is as pleasurable as it is exacting—from the astonishing visual attention paid to the way painting works through to the suppleness of the overarching critical apparatus. Anybody who cares about the condition of art now should read this book.”
Briony Fer, Professor of History of Art, University College London
“Has there ever been a more intense, more resonant, more committed dialogue between a preeminent critic and a preeminent artist than that between Benjamin Buchloh and Gerhard Richter? Distilled in this one extraordinary book is fifty years of deep reflection by the most rigorous analyst of neo-avant-garde art on the most reflexive corpus of painting produced during that same period. Gerhard Richter: Painting After the Subject of History offers a probing account of the life work of not one but two essential figures in the artistic culture of our time.”
Hal Foster, Townsend Martin, Class of 1917, Professor of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University