Gerhard Richter was born in Dresden in 1932 to a middle class family. Like many Germans of his generation, his relatives were involved in the Nazi movement; his mother’s brother, Uncle Rudi died a young Nazi officer, while Richter’s mentally disabled aunt was imprisoned in a Hitler euthanasia camp. Rigorous ideology and death have haunted Richter since he was just a child, perhaps causing his strong dislike for ideology of any kind and underpinning the attraction that nature, as an indiscriminate force, holds for him.
Support from his mother encouraged him to become an artist during his mid-teens and he embarked on a classical education at the Dresden Art Academy in Communist East Germany. Years later and a few months prior to the erection of the Berlin Wall, he and his wife fled with only a suitcase to Düsseldorf in West Germany. From 1961 to 1964, Richter studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Karl Otto Gotz.