This signed colour offset lithograph print by German artist Gerhard Richter was issued in a very limited edition of 25 in 1991. Part of Richter’s famed Atlas series, it was made after one of Richter’s most famous images, and a standout example of Richter’s stunning, photorealist style: a 1991 painting entitled Betty, which depicts the artist’s daughter as she faces away from the onlooker.
Richter’s Betty is certainly one of his most well-known productions. Based on a 1978 photograph of the artist’s 11-year-old daughter, the portrait can be set aside from many of his other figurative works, which tend to operate via an optical and painterly effect that has often been given the simple moniker of ‘blurring’. Testament to Richter’s desire to complicate the relationship between reality, painting, and photography, this particular artwork is concerned chiefly with the question of technology. Polychromatic as opposed to black and white, the work’s highly-detailed, granular surface is imbued with a sense of the many hours that have gone into its production. This, of course, gives way to a paradox: although visually closer to a photograph than perhaps many other painted portraits, this work positions itself as far away as possible from those photographic technologies able to capture the intricacies of their subjects at the click of a button.
Betty is an important case study outlining the referential function of Richter’s so-called ‘Atlas’ - a monumental collection of personal and found images that form the basis of many of the artist’s works. Always the jump-off point for the artist’s representational artworks - but never an end in itself - the Atlas relays the intricate, technological nature of Richter’s practice. It also goes hand-in-hand with his so-called ‘blurring’ to strengthen his desire to deconstruct traditional artistic method. Commenting on his reasoning behind the blur technique, Richter once confessed: ‘I blur things so that they do not look artistic or craftsmanlike but technological, smooth and perfect. I blur things to make all the parts a closer fit. Perhaps I also blur out the excess of unimportant information.’