Gerhard Richter, Individualism, and Belonging in West Germany

This book reevaluates the art of Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) in relation to his efforts to achieve belonging in the face of West Germany’s increasing individualism between the 1960s and the 1990s.


Richter fled East Germany in 1961 to escape the constraints of socialist collectivism. His varied and extensive output in the West attests to his greater freedom under capitalism, but also to his struggles with belonging in a highly individualised society, a problem he was far from alone in facing. The dynamic of increasing individualism has been closely examined by sociologists, but has yet to be employed as a framework for understanding broader trends in recent German art history. Rather than critique this development from a socialist perspective or experiment with new communal structures like a number of his colleagues, Richter sought and found security in traditional modes of bourgeois collectivity, like the family, religion, painting and the democratic capitalist state.

The book will be of interest to scholars working in art history as well as German history, culture and politics.

Published by Routledge, 2022. ISBN 9781032209777