Invitation to a press conference on “Gerhard Richter. Overpainted Photographs”

15 August 2023

Übermalte Fotografien

As a Dresden first, the Gerhard Richter Archiv, run by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD), will be exhibiting a selection of Gerhard Richter’s Overpainted Photographs. Of the 72 works on show in the Albertinum from 26 August 2023, 36 will be from the holdings of the Gerhard Richter Kunststiftung, a foundation established by the artist in 2019, and 36 from private collections.

Richter’s oeuvre of the past six decades is marked by interacting and opposing representational and abstract artistic strategies. In his small-format Overpainted Photographs, these two styles develop a symbiosis that is stronger than in any of the artist’s other groups of works.

In 1991, Gerhard Richter described how the works came about: “Photography has almost no reality; it is almost a hundred per cent picture. And painting always has reality: you can touch the paint; it has presence; but it always yields a picture – no matter whether good or bad. That's all the theory. It’s no good. I once took some small photographs and then smeared them with paint. That partly resolved the problem, and it's really good – better than anything I could ever say on the subject.”

Richter began these works in 1986. All of the formats exhibited are unusually small, each being about 10x15 cm. The basis for his pictures was ordinary photographs, most of which he took himself and had developed in a conventional photo lab. The photos are not artistic in any way. They are snapshots of family celebrations and trips, people, landscape or architecture, including a view of Dresden.

The Overpainted Photographs are intimately linked to Richter’s artistic works. Every day, after working on his large-format paintings in his studio, Richter dragged the photographs through the wet paint left on his doctor blade. The result depended heavily on chance, and surprising new realities were formed. In 2017, Gerhard Richter announced his retirement from painting, and at the same time the end of his work on the Overpainted Photographs.

A catalogue is being published to accompany the exhibition. Dietmar Elger: Gerhard Richter. Overpainted Photos, published by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Buchhandlung Walther & Franz König, Cologne, 2023, 120 pages, 77 colour illustrations, 3 b&w illustrations. ISBN 978-3-7533-0538-7.

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