Benjamin H.D. Buchloh’s “Gerhard Richter”

Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter

Art in America has a lengthy book review titled “History’s Painter” in the September 2022 issue that discusses the analysis of the painter Gerhard Richter’s lifetime of work.

Buchloh’s focus on Richter over the decades is interesting as a study in contrasts. While Richter can be equally comfortable as a painter of realism, abstraction, political content, seemingly sentimental content – anything that involves oil paint, Buchloh seems to be constitutionally doctrinaire.




As Daniel Spaulding, the review author, states:

Richter’s famous paintings of his daughters are a good example of this (one of them is on the book’s cover). Buchloh obviously finds them grating in their surface-level sentimentality and vaguely Freudian hints of incestuous desire. At the same time, he argues that in the context of advanced capitalism, at least, the family itself—the most traditional of traditional institutions—might function as the “sole site of reconciliation and happiness” after any larger utopia has ceased to be imaginable. Accordingly, the family pictures might even function as a site of “critical resistance and countermemory.” All of this is hedged with question marks 



The 650 page book is a testament to Buchloh’s fascination with Richter’s work over 50 years:

… the almost unimaginable weight that Buchloh puts on Richter’s head. Richter’s job is nothing less than to pick up the pieces of the “common ruin of the contending classes” that Marx saw as one of the possible outcomes of any social struggle…


Richter’s work is included in the book Abstract Painting: Concepts and Techniques