"(Gerhard) Richter's paintings wipe out the world then reinvent it, over and over, in all its awful complexity," comments Adrian Searle, a writer for The Guardian. Gerhard Richter, a German pop artist, embraces the unexceptional, the everyday, the ready-made, the dreary, the colorless, and the random. Yet, somehow, his paintings are some of the most striking and powerful of the last century. Richter focuses on the different degrees of attention to which we give to things from one moment to the next, depicting the secondary moments of events; the results of the terror, rather than the terror itself. His works generate a play between what is visible and what cannot be shown, but only known through emotions. This fluctuation between realism and abstraction can be seen in Gerhard Richter's photo-paintings and his use of "the blur," his large monochromatic paintings, and his collections of photography. .
Gerhard Richter's realistic figurative works, called photo-paintings, make extensive use of the blurred appearance of photographs that lack focus or show the movement of the camera or its subject. His hallmark "blur" is sometimes a softening by the light touch of a soft brush, sometimes a hard smear by an aggressive pull with his squeegee. This blurring generates a play between what is visible and what cannot be shown, but only known through feeling. This allows his viewers to experience historical reality as if at a distance. One often has to look outside his images to realize the violence to which they refer. Richter's "Aunt Marianne," 1965, may just seem like an ordinary family photograph but to Richter who was part of the World War II and Holocaust era, this painting shows his grief for her. Richter's Aunt Marianne was a schizophrenic who would be sterilized and ultimately euthanized by the Nazis. Many of his other realist paintings also reflect on the history of National Socialism, creating paintings of family members who had been members, as well as victims of, the Nazi party.