Gerhard Richter was born in Germany on February 9, 1932. He spent the first thirteen years of his life under National Socialism. Growing up in Nazi Germany, he was haunted by ideology and death. This fear remained with him through his adult life and is apparent in his paintings. He paints images without glory; he instead presents the beauty in the ordinary through his art. According to gerard-richter.com, he believed that art should be separated from art history and focus on the image rather than the reference, the visual rather than the statement.
Richter has produced a wide variety of art, including photographs, abstract, glass pieces, and photorealistic painted works. He used oil and his photorealistic painting techniques to create “Betty.” This painting was based on a photograph of his, at the time, 11 year old daughter. In his photo-based style, he blurs the paintings, modernizing traditional artwork through technique. The blurred paintings of photographs look almost like reality, but the viewer can never fully focus on the image. Gerhard-richter.com states that it is as if you were trying to remember the features of someone you saw once long ago, but you can only recall the outline.
“Betty” is a painting of a young girl. The blurred photo and softened features of the subject make this piece of art very delicate and feminine. The dark background, which is one of Richter’s other monochrome paintings, “Gray Mirror”, contrasts with the lighter colors of the girl. She wears a white jacket with red flowers, most likely symbolizing a conflict between purity (white) and seduction (red). It could also symbolize the struggle between good and evil, or even the transition from girl to woman. The sharp features of her flowered jacket contrast with the blurred features of her hair. The girl is turning away, her face not visible. This could be because she is ashamed or possibly just bashful. The lighting casts a light circle around her head, resembling a halo, another symbol for purity. The archetype of the innocent is represented in “Betty.” The subject is a young, naïve girl, full of innocence and wonder. Her inexperience and purity are depicted by her blonde hair and the pink, childish dress she wears. When I first saw this painting, I wanted to know what she was looking at. Who is she answering to? What does her face look like? Human curiosity draws the viewer in to this work of art, which may have been Richter’s purpose.