Gerhard Richter was born in Dresden, Saxony and grew up in Reichenau, Lower Silesia, and in Waltersdorf in the Upper Lusatian countryside. He left school after tenth grade and apprenticed as an advertising and stage-set painter. In 1950 his application for membership in the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden (Dresden University of Visual Arts) was rejected. He finally began his study at the Dresden Academy of Arts in 1951.
Many of Richter's paintings are made in a multi-step process of representations. He shoots or finds a photograph, then projects the image onto a canvas in which he traces the exact forms captured by the cameras lens. He then uses a color palette similar to that of the photo in an effort to replicate the original image. This process transformed into his signature “blur” paintings, in which the application of a softening effect or an aggressive smear simultaneously add to the photographic effect on the canvas while testifying to the painters action. In some cases, Richter blurs his painting to the point of disrupting the image, nullifying the subject; creating a fragile illusion and a fleeting conception for the viewer, allowing the individual to reflect upon the constant reshaping of the world around them.
In his abstract work, Richter builds up cumulative layers of paint to create nonrepresentational forms: using the same techniques implemented in his representational paintings, blurring and scraping to veil and expose prior layers. Richter exalts spontaneous, intuitive mark-making to a level of spatial logic and believability. Nearly all of Richter’s work demonstrates both illusionistic space that seems natural and the physical activity and material of painting.