1 Minute 1 Work: Gerhard Richter, Ema (Nude on a Staircase), 1966
Writer Robert Storr examines Gerhard Richter’s ‘dissenting’ painting ‘Ema (Nude on a Staircase)’. Made in 1966, this work was everything you were not supposed to do as a serious artist of the period.
Gerhard developed a series of very pointed rejections of the clichés of Western avant-garde art. In Gerhard’s case, probably the most important one was the painting Ema, which was a painting of a photograph that he had made of his wife Ema, naked, coming down the stairs. It happens to be a photograph of his wife, who was dear to him. It happens to be a photograph of a very beautiful woman. It happens to be, of course, a variation on the Nude Descending the Staircase by Duchamp. So, in making that painting was Gerhard did was he went against all the taboos of the time. You weren’t supposed to paint personal paintings, you weren’t supposed to paint at all. And when I say ‘you weren’t’, I mean within the context of the avant-gardes, the Neo-Dada avant-garde of Germany and internationally, of Beuys and his crowd. Gerhard was sort of being the dissenter, but he dissented not by talking, he dissented by making. And he made at a very sophisticated level. And he will say, and has said to me, Nude Descending the Staircase may be an anti-painting gesture in some ways but it’s a very good painting.
With thanks to
Ema (Akt auf einer Treppe)
Ema (Nude on a Staircase)
Gerhard Richter, 1966
Oil on canvas
200 cm x 130 cm
Catalogue Raisonné: 134
© Gerhard Richter
As Colourful as Ever
Broke for Free
(CC BY-NC 3.0)
Watch Next Video
Surrealism: Imagining A New World
Surrealism: Imagining A New World 8:17 mins
Why did Surrealism appeal to artists across the world?
Ben Street: How to Enjoy Art
Ben Street: How to Enjoy Art 15:32 mins
Is specialist knowledge needed to enjoy and understand art?
Gerhard Richter: Drawings
Gerhard Richter: Drawings 15:48 mins
‘The drawings are traces of a life, creating territories in relation to limits and potentials. Communications transmitted to whoever will regard them.’ — Prof. Michael Newman