Gerhard Richter, Gegenüberstellung 2 (Confrontation 2)
oil on canvas, 1988
112 cm x 108 cm
image courtesy of Gerhard Richter

Happy Portrait Monday!

Today's Portrait Monday is brought to you by the Winsor Gallery intern, Alex M.F. Quicho, and Gerhard Richter.

From Gerhard Richter's website:  

While passing by, a woman looks into the distance, then stops short with a tight smile on her lips, finally moving on, her gaze directed downwards.

The three paintings entitled
Confrontation 1–3 show Gudrun Ensslin, a German terrorist of the Red Army Faction (RAF). The paintings refer to a chronological sequence of photographs, which were taken at Essen prison after Ensslin's arrest in summer 1972. When transforming the photographical source images into paint, Richter cropped the image decisively: whereas the standing Ensslin is captured full length in the photographs, in the paintings only the upper part of her body is depicted – in almost life-size. In cropping the image, Richter reduces any information about Ensslin's surroundings. He forgoes another detail in addition: in the photograph that shows Ensslin looking directly at the beholder, she carries a number plate in her hand, which corresponds with Richter's original title Gegenüberstellung (= identity parade).

The title describes not only the fact that Gudrun Ensslin is on her way to an identity parade, but it also is about a confrontation with the viewer. Gerhard Richter aims to come face to face with Gudrun Ensslin, the human being rather than the terrorist. She might appear likeable to the beholder; however, with the knowledge about her past this gives way to an ambivalent feeling. 

The rest of the series can be viewed on Richter's website, here.