Gerhard Richter

St John


Not on display

Gerhard Richter born 1932
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2005 × 2605 × 35 mm
Presented by the Patrons of New Art through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1988

Display caption

St John belongs to a series called the ‘London Paintings’, each named after one of the chapels of Westminster Abbey. The titles are not meant to be descriptive, but refer merely to associations connected with the artist’s visits to London. Since 1980 Richter has made his abstract paintings by manipulating spatulas of different lengths, loaded with paint, across areas of the canvas. New layers of colour cover earlier ones. Richter’s inability to control the precise distribution of paint allows a degree of chance to determine the paintings’ final appearance.

Gallery label, April 2007

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Technique and condition

Painted on plain linen canvas which has been stretched onto a substantial strainer. It has a white acrylic 'latex' priming, evenly applied in several layers to cover partly the canvas texture. The tacking edges have been repainted with white acrylic.

Paint has been applied thickly horizontally, then dragging vertically with a flexible roller or applicator ('squeegee'). Earlier layers may have been brushed or else flattened in the painting process. The oil paint was tacky and stiff, and has been pulled to form sharp impasto throughout. The artist is reported to have used small amounts of essential oils, such as spike or carnation oil, to modify his paint and some white spirit presumably also in small amounts. The low volatile essential oils remain in the paint as plasticisers. The paint will remain flexible and undried for several years until they evaporate. However, the surface of the paint has dried and contracted.

The canvas has been restretched once after painting. The painting is not varnished and at present is in good condition. It is unframed and is vulnerable to handling; dirt accumulation and eventually paint brittleness will become a problem.

Stephen Hackney


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