Gerhard Richter



Gerhard Richter was born to Horst and Hildegard Richter in Dresden on February 9, 1932. Having married the year before, Gerhard was their first child, with a daughter, Gisela, arriving in 1936. Horst Richter, with whom Gerhard did not have a close relationship, was a teacher at a secondary school in Dresden.1 Hildegard was a bookseller and, like her father, a talented pianist. She was passionate about literature, and passed on her enthusiasm and knowledge to the young Gerhard. They were, in many respects, an average middle-class family. In an interview with Robert Storr Richter described his early family life as “simple, orderly, structured – mother playing the piano and the father earning money”.2

In 1935, Horst was offered a post at a school in Reichenau, then a part of Saxony, now Bogatynia in Poland. The family duly moved to the town, which was much smaller and less stimulating than Dresden.3 While living there was to prove much safer than being in Dresden when the war began, it perhaps marked the beginning of a gradual deterioration in the relationship between Horst and Hildegard. The strain was increased when Horst was conscripted into the German army. He left to fight first on the eastern front and then on the western front where he was captured by the Allied forces and detained in an American prisoner of war camp until the end of the war. In 1946 he was released and returned to his family, who by now had relocated from Reichenau to the even smaller Waltersdorf, a village on the Czech border.