If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:4:59

Video transcript

[Music] so we're looking at a German artist Gerhard Richter's painting Betty this is a painting yeah this is not a photograph and it was done by a human being a living contemporary artist so this is I mean this is interesting I mean no we've talked about the camera coming along and then you know mid 19th century and artists started to reflect on what they are and what their role is and now this guy shows up and makes a completely photo-real right we've been dealing with all these questions about what it means to make legitimate art into the death of painting and art having transcended the need to be representative and then Richter comes along well he begins actually as a pop artist and adopts a whole series of abstract styles but also these intensely naturalistic renderings you know just trying to put my art historian hat here or maybe my art critic cat because this is this is fairly recent so what my reactions are I'm amazed by the technique required to produce something so real but after all of what we've talked about it's just cool painting it doesn't seem to be like pivotal in the history of art but tell me otherwise so I actually have a lot of respect for what Richter has done but again you can't take the single image in isolation but maybe we can begin with the single image I mean we have this intensely naturalistic rendering that by the way does come from a photograph but you know Betty is facing away from us we don't see her we want to see her and he's given us the promise of seeing her with this really hyper specific naturalistic rendering and yet then there's also this refusal she's not gonna let us see her face well why couldn't have this just been a photograph well I think that that's a really interesting issue painting is about in the 20th century and in the 21st century to some extent it is about an evolution of styles some very few artists like Picasso will work in multiple styles simultaneously but Richter takes that on as a task and he works in a kind of pure abstraction and a hyper naturalism at the same moment and as well as other kinds of historical styles in a sense leveling them destroying this Oshin that one evolves from the next that one responds to the next that style he begins to suggest is actually a function in the late twentieth century of the market it's almost a kind of artistic branding yeah I mean everything we've been talking about is how painters have pushed thinking forward or at least changed thinking and that's why it was interesting and what I think I'm hearing years Gerhard Richter is saying I'm gonna like kind of break free of that cycle of painters continuing trying to just push the style of the time well do we live in a moment a kind of post historical moment when we have access to all of these different histories and what does it mean to in a sense on all of those simultaneously at least on the paint on canvas every permutation has been done so you're saying two things so why pretend like you're doing a new permutation but at the same time that's a little sad well I think that that's right is that power that we have a kind of loss in fact so what I'm starting to by what y'all are saying it's all about context cuz outside of context it's like wow someone painted that that's really cool Gerhard Richter grew up outside of Dresden and he was a child and when Dresden was fire bombed by the Allies during the Second World War so as you know that city was almost completely destroyed he grew up however not in a Nazi Germany then but in an East Germany a culture that is moving from a visual ideology that looks to a heroic classicism as the Nazis had to of Soviet realism and he went to art school and there was indoctrination the state telling him as an artist this was his responsibility to move the state forward with a kind of naturalistic rendering he moved to the West just before the Berlin wall was finished and there he entered into a very different visual culture one that was all about advertising but that was another kind of indoctrination he felt and advertising visual culture that now is speaking to capitalist culture so he moved from Nazi visual ideology to Soviet visual ideology to capitalist visual ideology and he didn't want to own any of it he wanted to transcend how does style now in our world speak to ideologies speak to vested interests and was it important to sort of distance yourself from that and in a sense disempower the ideologies of style yeah I think I have to think about this a little bit I think that Richter has succeeded if he has given you the opportunity to really think that through and you know to question how much we are products of our historical theology that's a [Music]