German artist Gerhard Richter’s 1996 Self-portrait painting is an oil on canvas piece that measures 20 1/16 x 18 1/8 inches. This small canvas serves as a leitmotif in Richter’s oeuvre, considered among the most important living contemporary artists and a significant figure in post-war German art. The painting does not depict recognizable imagery, revealing Richter’s indifference towards any “model” serving as his subject matter.
The artwork showcases thick brushstrokes and monochromatic colors that sweep across the canvas with fluid motion. In doing so, his work challenges traditional notions of portraiture as he transforms it into abstract expressionism. By rejecting conventional depictions of a face and features to convey personality or character traits, he has left the viewers with just color and form to analyze.
Richter’s ability to shift between figurative and abstract painting led him to create numerous works that challenged past practices across art movements throughout his career. His distinct style separates him from his contemporaries, leaving behind an influential legacy within modern art history circles worldwide.