Modern and Contemporary Art
Two Women with a Cream Cake
Gerhard Richter's early artistic education took place in East Germany, where he was trained according to the conventions of Social Realism. After moving to West Germany, he developed an enigmatic model of representation in which two competing techniques – painting and photography – dialogue with one another. Two Women with a Cream Cake is characteristic of a group of works called "photo-paintings," which Richter created during the years 1962–66. These paintings are based on random, amateurish, banal, and anonymous photographs taken from newspapers, periodicals, or family albums. Richter appropriates the image, the color scale, and the structure of the photographs, and treats these elements in a way that questions and undoes traditional artistic conventions
about originality, creativity, style, and value judgment.
Like the other paintings in this group, Two Women with a Cream Cake traces its own origin. The photograph this painting is based on was copied onto the canvas in a mechanical, accurate manner and enlarged either by the traditional means of dividing the canvas into squares or with the aid of a projector. When the canvas was still wet, Richter undid the illusionary appearance of the painting's wet, Richter undid the illusionary appearance of the painting's photographic origin with brushwork that "dissolved" and blurred the image. The "unfocused" representation impedes the viewer from immediately registering its contents. This deferral constrains the viewer to examine the interaction between the act of photography and the act of painting.
The use of a photographic source lends the painting the ostensibly objective character of the photograph, yet simultaneously undermines this objective status.