1 Minute 1 Work: Gerhard Richter, Ema (Nude on a Staircase), 1966

Robert Storr

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.

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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

Gerhard Richter




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)

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