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Monday, 27 May 2013

Untergang (Party's Over): Bertolt Brecht / Gerhard Richter


Party: Gerhard Richter, 1963. mixed media, 150 x 182 cm (Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden)

And I always thought: the very simplest words
Must be enough. When I say what things are like
Everyone's heart must be torn to shreds.
That you'll go down if you don't stand up for yourself

Surely you see that.

Und ich dachte immer: die allereinfachsten Worte
Müssen genügen. Wenn ich sage, was ist
Muß jedem das Herz zerfleischt sein.
Daß du untergehst, wenn du dich nicht wehrst
Das wirst du doch einsehen.


And I always thought (Und ich dachte immer): Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), c.1956, English version by Michael Hamburger


Deckchair: Gerhard Richter, 1965, oil on canvas, 150 x 190 cm


Deckchair II: GerhartdRichter, 1965, oil on canvas, 100 x 200 cm

Boat Trip: Gerhard Richter, 1965, oil on canvas, 150 x 190 cm (
Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main)

Motor Boat Trip: Gerhard Richter, 1965, oil on canvas, 170 x 170 cm

Renate and Marianne: Gerhard Richter, 1964, oil on canvas, 135 x 170 cm

Girl with Sunglasses: Gerhard Richter, 1965, oil on canvas, 105 x 70 cm

Two Couples: Gerhard Richter, 1965, oil on canvas, 115 x 160 cm
Gerhard Richter paintings via Gerhard Richter Art


TC said...

This may be the last poem Brecht wrote, in May 1956, when he was a patient at the principal East Berlin hospital, The Charité, located only a block from his theatre.

From the same time comes this one:

Bertolt Brecht: When in my white room at the Charité

Wooden Boy said...

That grand call to courage, set against those images of leisurely futility; the poem sings simply and with quiet force.

TC said...


This post was meant as a kind of tonic (pardon the pun -- should I have said a Bloody Mary?) on what has become one of the emptier of national holidays, as the repeated excuses for work-avoidance and patriotic festivity are thought of.

The prescribed activities: shopping, driving, eating, drinking, driving...

As a wee lad, once, during one of those earlier deglaciations, I was wont to festoon the spokes of my bicycle with red, white and blue ribbons, on this day, to take part in the annual parade.

Now, not so much festooning... but we're looking forward nonetheless to the Quantitative Easing, I think. Whatever that is.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Such simple words but oh so difficult to put down.

tpw said...

Thanks for this one, Tom. I love "When in my white room at the Charité" from the earlier post. I hope I can get to where Brecht got when the times comes.

Hazen said...

Another bit of Brecht for consideration:

"We'd all be human if we could."

TC said...

Thanks, friends.

Some of the poems I like best whisper quietly to me a single word: "Richter".

Robert Creeley: Generous Life

TC said...

Hazen, well, at least we try.

The fewest and best words in the right order: who followed that "simple" formula to better ends than BB?

A few more of my faves:

Everything Changes

Difficult Times

The Learner

And for anyone who would like more: check under "B" in the Contents Index.

Marie W said...

Richter's photos convey this feeling of 'national blur' extremely well. Maybe we need this kind of holiday to feel part of a bigger picture, together as one, or something?
Those are all such great poems, Tom, thank you for the links. I'm sure off to check under B.

TC said...


Richter's paintings have always seemed expressive in a unique way, the haptic and the conceptual elements somehow existing side by side without contradiction, as also the photorealistic execution and the accidental gestural quality introduced by smear and squeegee -- that signature "blur". The paintings increasingly seem historical in a way quite apart from subject matter; as you say, the "national blur" seems to be captured there, even as old senses of nationality and geography and space and time slip away.

One of my favourite paintings of his is the portrait of his wife Sabine, which appears as the bottom image in this collection of paintings of women reading -- a context which I think helps us to see his work within a tradition.


It's interesting to recall that in 1950 his first application for tuition in the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts was rejected as being "too bourgeois".

There's an interesting recent documentary about his work, by the way. The trailer:

Gerhard Richter painting



"Surely you see that."

Richter's view of things/people make you wonder what you've seen -- a beautiful set here (together with such links to other things above ("Generous Life," "Reader").


light coming into clouds above shadowed
ridge, white circle of moon by branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

possible look at setting in
which facts, what not

that can be as time goes on,
“appear air,” glimpse

white edge of sun in clouds above ridge,
fog on the horizon to the left of point

Marie W said...

Very interesting to see him at work in that trailer. Approaching to canvas by smearing, then reacting to it by smearing, changing or destroying, each step forward more and more difficult and less and less free, until there is nothing left to do.

nickareeno said...

Beautiful. Lao-tse with a bullet.

TC said...

Very nice, Nick.