Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2015

Department 1



Gerhard Richter explored themes of memory and national identity in a society with a controversial past and a difficult recovery. He broke the silence that permeated the country and created a dialogue about remembering, memorializing, and politics.

After World War II, Germany had difficulty facing the atrocities of the war and ignored the flaws in the country’s recovery. Richter witnessed first hand the social and political struggles of the country as a citizen of Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic, societies that required strict conformity to their ideologies. Upon his escape to West Germany, where he was exposed to Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, and the expected rejection of Socialism, Richter forged a painting career devoid of stylistic or content conformity.

Richter’s family paintings and his October 18, 1977 series from 1988 directly confront Germany’s struggle to recover from the Second World War. The family paintings address the ways in which World War II affected his own family’s dynamic and identity. The October 18, 1977 series comments on the events involving the Baader-Meinhof group inside Stammheim Prison, and in doing so highlights social unrest and political controversy in Germany in the 1970’s. Richter’s refusal to stay silent about these issues allowed him to bring to light the reality of Germany’s condition. Although these pieces were painted in a photorealistic style, the literal blurring of these images makes a statement about clarity, perception, and reality while toying with the norms associated with the mediums of painting and photography. Richter addresses unspeakable topics with an unconventional painting style to create a dynamic juxtaposition of ambiguity and directness.


Art History Thesis

This thesis was written for Prof. Felicia Else's senior seminar, ARTH 400: Seminar in Art History, Spring 2015.