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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

© Gerhard Richter 2011
German, born 1932
Abstract Picture (Rhombus) (851-1)
Oil on canvas

90 1/4 x 101 1/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Caroline Wiess Law in honor of
Peter C. Marzio, Director, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Arts of Europe

Gerhard Richter has built a remarkable career on paintings that explore abstraction and representation with equal authority and freedom. To create his abstractions, Richter applies paint onto the canvas and then scrapes and wipes it away to reveal layers of painterly sediment.

Richter's Rhombus Cycle was originally intended for a Franciscan church in southern Italy, after architect Renzo Piano invited Richter in 1997 to create a group of paintings inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Richter chose to symbolize the saint’s life through rhombus-shaped (or diamond-shaped) paintings, evoking the Wounds of Christ that are said to have miraculously appeared on St. Francis's body when the saint was praying.

Vivid shades of orange dominate the surface of this work. Richter’s scraping reveals darker colors underneath, creating a sense of glow. The rhombic shape, slightly greater in width than height, draws the viewer’s eye from one painting to the next, an effect compounded by the horizontal layers of paint. Although Rhombus Cycle captures the intensity of its theme, Richter's abstract interpretation did not meet with the approval of the church's commissioners, so the work was never installed there.