Evelyn (Blau) / Evelyn (Blue) | Gerhard Richter

Evelyn (Blau) / Evelyn (Blue) 1964 | Painting 41,2 x 51 inches

Discover the biography and all work of the artist

Painted in 1964, Evelyn (Blau) / Evelyn (Blue) marks the start of Gerhard Richter’s career in West Germany. The work reflects a period of intense creativity following the artist’s training at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf. Richter was at this time searching for his own style. He studied the artistic trends of the day in great depth while a student, and struck by the diversity of methods, he experimented with many different techniques, grappling with major artists until he had worked through their styles, such as Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Tapiès, Fluxus, ZERO, ….

Evelyn (Blau) is part of this dynamic. In a stark composition, the face of a woman appears in contrasting black and white with an intense layer of one colour covering the entire surface. This eradicates the individual features of the woman, suggesting some of the most iconic portraits of Andy Warhol, such as thos of Marylin Monroe and Jackie kennedy. Produces in series by the American artist at the start of the 1960s. The reference, deliberately explicit, adresses several issues.

Firstly, it was an opportunity for the artist to explore the limits of figurative painting. Fascinated by photography and television, Richter developed a technique that he later described as « photo-painting ». The artist challenged the ability of photography to depict reality and questioned the power of conviction it provides to the viewer. Indeed here, although the piece purports to show us an « objective » portrait of a recognisable individual, the painter has deliberately blurred the contours of the face, erasing distinctive characteristics of the personality and placing a distance between the female represented and the viewer, separated by a deep expanse of blue.  A sense of anonymity comes from the photographic idiosyncrasy and there are signs here of the abstraction that Richter would explore some years later.  The sense of raw emotion is already evident : where Warhol mimicked the excesses of mass production, Richter appeared to reflect on the loss of identity and a certain metaphysical unease.

In addition, it is possible to see in Richter’s work a desire to question the success of American art of the 1960s on the international stage. This could be an echo of the socio-political context in Germany at the start of the decade, marked by signs of the Cold War, with the use of the Warhol model itself a questioning of the relationship between East and West. Approaching parody, it opposes the immediacy of the pop art of Warhol or Lichtenstein, and the triumph of abstract expressionism in a Jackson Pollock, with a German manner that was more restrained, almost disembodied. An important work, Evelyn (Blau) displays the key preoccupations explored relentlessly by Richter during this period, particularly at the time of a collective exhibition influenced by Joseph Beuys called « Living with Pop : A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism  ».