Hans Richter

Art on this Day



Hans Richter, prominent avant-gardist associated with Dada movement, was born on this day, in Berlin in 1888.


Richter's mother, an accomplished musician, made sure that her son developed artistic sensitivity from a very young age. Richter decided to pursuit a career as a painter, despite his father’s disapproval, who wished his son would become an architect.


Richter was an exceptionally versatile artist – he experimented with different styles and a remarkably wide range of media. Being strongly influenced by Cubism and Expressionism at that time, in 1913 he began to establish his artistic journey by joining avant-garde circles of the capital city of Germany and becoming a contributor to Die Aktion journal. Close friendship with editor Franz Pfemfert helped him to gain wider recognition as one whole issue was published about Richter's exhibition held in Munich. The issue also included the first study of his work written by the Expressionist critic Theodore Daubler and pictures of some of artist's drawings and woodcuts. Unfortunately, this propitious period was abruptly interrupted with his forced military conscription. In 1916, after being severely injured and paralysed, Richter was sent to Zürich for further treatment. There, he was able to get in touch with his friends, Expressionist poets Albert Ehrenstein and Ferdinand Hardekopf, who, by then, had already been involved in a new artistic movement and introduced Richter to Dada.


Richter had actively taken part in organising Dada shows and producing publications, he also created Visionary Portraits (1917) and Dada Köpfe (1918) - now known as some of the most memorable works within the movement. What is more, he had returned to writing for Die Aktion but also contributed to a new Dutch periodical founded by Theo van Doesburg De Stijl.



It was the creation of abstract films, however, that Richter was truly passionate about. According to him, only film could encompass all the ideas of modern art. It is believed that he said that film was 'rhythm that is portrayed with the means provided by photo technology'. In order to focus on filmmaking he returned to Berlin and set up a studio with a fellow director Viking Eggeling. They experimented with animation of abstract shapes, rapid shots and double exposures. Some of his better known pieces are Film Study (1926)  Two-Pence Magic (1929) and, the most significant to Richter, Rhythmus 21 (1921), which he claimed 'was the first abstract film ever created'.



After nearly 22 years spent in the United and teaching in different art institutions (e.g. Institute of Film Techniques at the City College of New York) he retired to Locarno, Switzerland. He died on 1 February in 1976.