2007-2008 2006-2007 2005-2006 2004-2005 2003-2004 2002-2003 2001-2002 2000-2001 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998
1996-1997 1995-1996 1994-1995 1993-1994 1992-1993 1991-1992 1990-1991 1989-1990 1988-1989 1987-1988 1986-1987
< Thumbnails < Last | Next >


Gerhard Richter
Lilies, 2000
Oil on canvas
68 x 80 x 3.1 cm
Purchased 2002
© Courtesy of Gerhard Richter, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

Gerhard Richter began his career as a muralist in East Germany during the post-war years. In 1961 he moved to West Germany and became active in the contemporary art world centred around Cologne and Dusseldorf. Using published images and family photographs, he began making the first of his many celebrated photo-realist paintings, recognizable by their distinctive blurred look. Over the years his work has reflected - or at least has seemed to reflect - a wide range of influences, including Pop Art, Minimalism, Abstraction, Neo-Expressionism, and Conceptualism. Austerely critical of himself and of the practice of art in general, Richter has in fact consistently eluded all "isms."

In his photo-realist paintings Richter has frequently turned to traditional subjects: portraits and self-portraits, landscapes, and still-lifes. Lilies is a still-life depicting a bouquet of white lilies in a glass vase placed on a table. The image is devoid of clear outlines and verges on the abstract. A strong light source outside the picture illuminates the flowers from above, casting a broken pattern of shadows on the surface of the table. The canvas is divided into an upper field and a lower field. The space above the line of the table may be seen as representing the material world, where things possess measurable volume. Below the line, in the immaterial realm of shadows, the vase, flowers, and leaves are transformed, seeming almost to disintegrate and merge into the creamy yellow surface of the table. Viewed within the context of the "Vanitas" tradition, which has exerted a strong hold on Richter's imagination, Lilies is symbolic of the fragility of life and the vanity of worldly desires in the face of death's inevitability. While the artist seeks to capture the fleeting beauty of the flowers, the blurring of the image makes visible the passage of space and time.

The candidum lily, also known as the Madonna lily, is a traditional Christian symbol of purity, chastity, and virginity, often associated with the Virgin Mary and included in depictions of the Annunciation. It is significant, in this regard, that the palette of Lilies resembles that of Richter's 1973 series of paintings titled Annunciation after Titian, all based on Titian's Annunciation in the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice. Out of his great admiration for Titian's masterpiece and his fascination with its subject, Richter wished to somehow possess it by copying it. In Lilies he seems to be returning to the challenge of possessing the Titian. This time, however, he has extracted only a detail from it and recast it as a still-life, in order to express what would be, in his terms, the "beautiful truth" within it. Although he is not religious himself, Richter believes that religious images "still speak to us. We continue to love them, to use them, to have need of them."