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Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
This is one of four photographic sets of ’48 Portraits’ that Richter made in 1998. It is based on the paintings of the same title that he made for the German Pavilion in the 1972 Venice Biennale. Richter had long had the idea of painting a series of famous men; being nominated to represent Germany and show in the neo-classical building in Venice gave Richter the opportunity he needed. Richter based his painting on the black and white photographic images of famous men of letters, philosophers and scientists that he found in various encyclopaedia and dictionaries. The men (controversially, there are no women) are European and North American. They represent a broadly humanistic view of Western civilisation. Richter avoided artists, because he did not wish to set up a canon of his artistic forefathers. He has simplified the backgrounds and, to some extent, the figures, so that they have as much formal similarity as possible.