Gerhard Richter has built a remarkable career on paintings that explore abstraction and representation with equal authority and freedom. To create his abstractions, Richter applies paint onto the canvas and then scrapes and wipes it away to reveal layers of painterly sediment.

Richter's Rhombus Cycle was originally intended for a Franciscan church in southern Italy, after architect Renzo Piano invited Richter in 1997 to create a group of paintings inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Richter chose to symbolize the saint’s life through rhombus-shaped (or diamond-shaped) paintings, evoking the Wounds of Christ that are said to have miraculously appeared on St. Francis's body when the saint was praying.

Vivid shades of orange dominate the surface of this work. Richter’s scraping reveals darker colors underneath, creating a sense of glow. The rhombic shape, slightly greater in width than height, draws the viewer’s eye from one painting to the next, an effect compounded by the horizontal layers of paint. Although Rhombus Cycle captures the intensity of its theme, Richter's abstract interpretation did not meet with the approval of the church's commissioners, so the work was never installed there.


  • Title: Abstract Pictures (The Rhombus Cycle)
  • Creator: Gerhard Richter
  • Creator Lifespan: 1932
  • Creator Nationality: German
  • Date: 1998
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: © Gerhard Richter 2014
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Oil on canvas, six panels
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by Caroline Wiess Law in honor of Peter C. Marzio, Director, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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