In 1962 Richter began to make portraits and other works copied from found photographs. Unwilling to continue in his earlier, abstract style, and yet wary of inventing pictures based on observation and interpretation, he had been seeking instead a more direct and objective way of representing the world. Therefore, a photograph, being machine-made, was in his view 'the most perfect picture'. Using photographs as the basis for paintings freed him from conventional artistic processes involving the creation of motifs, colour, composition and expression.
Richter's subject matter was wide, and from the outset portraits were a dominant theme. But his attitude to portraiture
was unconventional. Depicting both recognisable and anonymous individuals he commented: 'I don't think the painter need either
see or know the sitter. A portrait must not express anything of the sitter's 'soul', essence or character. Nor must a painter
'see' a sitter in any specific, personal way...' Richter's portraits express the central theme of his work. By presenting an
inscrutable surface, they intimate that reality cannot be seen or known but remains hidden beneath a veneer of appearance.