Research Point – Typologies

This research point asked that we take a look at Gerhard Richter’s Atlas and to note how he has placed together multiple images of a similar subject. These may be building, trees, portraits or even the colour of the sky. This is called a typology.

Richter’s Atlas “is a collection of photographs, newspaper cuttings and sketches that the artist has been assembling since the mid 1960s” and which are arranged on loose pieces of paper (Richter, 2018).

Atlas provides an insight into how the artist creates imagery.

To examine very single piece of paper with the photos and clippings attached to them would take a while, there are over 800 sheets of paper. However, skimming the images on the website shows the wide variety of ways the material is presented.

There are sheets with dozens of photos arrayed on them, almost like a collage, others have maybe a half dozen images. Some have small groups of two or three items but with multiple groups on the sheet, and then there are sheets with just a single photo on them.

Images vary from black and white, through sepia to colour.

What each sheet has in common is that the content follows a theme. For instance “48 Portraits”, “Magazine Cuttings”, “Newspaper Cuttings”, “Cities”, “Hitler”, “Mountain Ranges”, “Trees” or “Forest”.

A lot of the sheets have the same theme which would lend to the tendency if displayed together for the viewer to gloss over individual ones. Which makes it all the more powerful when one of them doesn’t fit, and especially when the theme for that one leaps out at you. Did any of the list above leap out at you?

Looking at the range of themes in Richter’s Atlas it is obvious that it is possible to make a series from anything and that as artists, and not just photographers, we can use other sources as well as our own photographs to make our own artistic works that little bit more interesting.


  1. Richter, Gerhard, 2018. Atlas. Available at: [Accessed: 4th February 2018]