November 12, 2008 / 5:34 PM / 10 years ago

Edinburgh shows span Richter, reveal Caravaggio

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - A major exhibition of the works of Germany’s Gerhard Richter, regarded as one of the most influential living artists, has opened in Edinburgh, providing a dramatic overview of his art over the past 45 years.

A gallery attendant poses for photographers as he stands next to the "The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew" painting by Caravaggio (L), during a photocall for the forthcoming "The Art of Italy in the Royal Collection" exhibition at The Queens Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland November 12, 2008. REUTERS/David Moir

John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, describes Richter as “arguably the most important and influential contemporary artist alive today.”

The exhibition at the National Gallery complex in the center of the Scottish capital runs through to January 4.

Over 60 works from five private collections cover virtually every period of Richter’s career.

They include the black-and-white photo-based works, which gained him the label of “German Pop Artist” at a time when Andy Warhol was a dominant Pop Art influence in the United States, to what the gallery describes as Richter’s “magisterial, sensuously colored abstracts of the 1990s and beyond.”

Another exhibition of Richter’s work, 4900 Colors: Version II, is about to end a two-month run at London’s Serpentine Gallery, while London’s National Portrait Gallery will host a showing of Gerhard Richter Portraits from February 26 to May 31 next year.

Born in Dresden in 1932, Richter was brought up in the Nazi era and then Communist East Germany where he started his career. He moved to West Germany in the early 1960 and held his first exhibition in 1962.

The curator of the Edinburgh exhibition, Keith Hartley, believes Richter is a great artist because he has made painting vital and relevant again.

“He has used it to deal with contemporary issues...but also he paints a lot of abstract (works), luscious, sensuous paintings, so he’s got the whole gamut,” he told Reuters.

“That’s what I think has made him very popular, and also a sort of painter’s painter, if you like.”


Hartley said Richter was highly skilled technically in his mastery of the tools of painting.

“He wouldn’t have been able to handle such a wide range of subjects if he didn’t have the technical mastery he does have.”

The Richter show follows a highly-successful exhibition of Warhol’s works last year, both sponsored by Bank of Scotland’s totalART series.

Richter first came to Scotland with several other German artists in 1970 at the invitation of Edinburgh artist and art impresario Richard Demarco, who introduced a school of European artists virtually unknown in Britain at the time.

“I’ll be back,” Richter wrote in Demarco’s visitors’ book.

Another major show is being held until next March in the Queen’s Gallery of Holyrood Palace, Queen Elizabeth’s Edinburgh residence.

It contains a spectacular exhibition of Italian Baroque as part of the Art of Italy series from the royal collection.

Two of the centerpieces are works by Caravaggio which were previously believed to have been copies of lost originals.

Recent research has attributed the paintings — The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, and Boy Peeling Fruit — to the master himself.

The Calling of Saints, now valued at around 50 million pounds ($77.33 million), had languished in a side room at Hampton Court Palace until taken down for examination and restoration in 2001.

The exhibition of 31 paintings and 43 drawings reflects the stylistic diversity of the period ranging from the powerful realism of Caravaggio and the revolutionary naturalism of the Caracci family to the cool classicism of Poussin and Domenichino.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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