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Richter, George Martin

    Full Name: Richter, George Martin

    Other Names:

    • George M. Richter
    • Georg Richter

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 27 March 1875

    Date Died: 09 June 1942

    Place Born: San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

    Place Died: Norwalk, Fairfield, CT, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany and United States


    Renaissance-subject art historian and appraiser; part of the greater Richter family of art historians. Richter was the son of Clemens Max Richter, M.D. (1848–1936), a surgeon and Emma Sophia Bierwirth (Richter) (1853-1929), both German immigrants. His older cousin was Jean-Paul Richter, a Leonardo scholar in Germany. The younger Richter began college at the University of California, Berkeley with the intent of following in his father’s footsteps studying science. With his parents’ divorce, he accompanied his mother in returning to Dresden, Germany in 1896. He spent the following year at the Königliches Gymnasium Dresden-Neustadt to allow him to enter the German university system. Richter took university courses in Munich, Heidelberg and Berlin intent on being a languages scholar. He also experimented in publishing. Richter returned to the United States where he taught German literature for a year in 1899 at the University of Pennsylvania. Returning to Germany, now interested in art history, he obtained his degree at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, in 1907. His dissertation, written under the Institute’s chair and founder, Berthold Riehl was on the topic of the artist Melchior Feselen (d. 1538) and sixteenth-century German art. After graduation, Richter worked at the Galerie Helbing auction house in Munich, beginning in 1910, providing the texts for the auction publications under its founder Hugo Helbing (1863-1938). In 1912 he joined the firm Galerie Georg Caspari. With the United States’ entry into the First World War, Richter, an American Citizen, would have been obliged to leave Germany. He is speculated to have moved to neutral Switzerland where his cousin, Jean-Paul, now an eminent art historian, was also living. Richter traveled among prestigious circles in Europe aided by his family and gallery contacts. He formed a long friendship with the author Thomas Mann (1875-1955). Richter returned to Munich after the war, now dealing art personally and founding the Phantasus-Verlag publishing house in 1919 with H.H. Schlieper. Mann loaned him money to purchase a house in Feldafing, Bavaria, on the shores of Starnberg Lake.

    In 1920 he married Amalie (“Amely”), Baroness Zündt von Kenzingen, whose cousin, Hildegard “Hilla” Rebay von Ehrenwiesen would later become the first director of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum. Richter named the Feldafing house “Villino”. Mann was a frequent visitor; the house was the place of Mann’s psyche reorientation after the First World War. While there Mann acted as godfather to the Richters’ daughter, Gigi (1922-2020). The financial collapse of the German Mark forced Richter to sell the home and move his family to Florence in 1923. It was in Italy that his interest intensified to Renaissance painting. In Florence Richter visited both Bernard Berenson and Mary Berenson at their Villa I Tatti. His research on Giorgione already under way. Musolini’s rise to power in 1929 forced Richter and his family to move to England but he rented an apartment on the Lido in Venice to continue his research. The completed book appeared in 1937 as Giorgio da Castelfranco, called Giorgione. As war loomed in Europe, Richter heeded a suggestion from Mann, now living and lecturing in Princeton, New Jersey, to relocate to the United States. In addition to his family, Richter also moved the large photographic collection of works of art, in 1939. In New York, his wife’s cousin, Hilla von Rebay, was now the director of Solomon Guggenheim’s new Museum of Non-Objective Art. Rebay was crucial in helping Richter make art-world connections and encouraging him to lecture and write. He returned to his research on Andrea del Castagno. Unable to establish an art dealership in New York, he looked for buyers for his large image archive and art-book collection. Among those he contacted was David Finley, director of the still-to-be-completed National Gallery of Art, but Finley declined. As Richter’s situation became more dire, Rebay prevailed on Guggenheim to provide the funds for his photographic collection to be housed at the National Gallery of Art. In declining health, Richter died at Rebay’s home before the agreement could be completed. His widow sold his art book collection at auction.  His final article published in his lifetime was co-written with Erwin Panofsky; His final article and his book on Andrea del Castagno appeared after his death

    Richter wrote on a variety of subjects including expertising, motivational aesthetics and art history. His method was largely a psychological approach to art (one that was disparaged by August L. Mayer). A forceful personality, Kenneth Clark) declined to review Richter’s Giorgioni book because of perceived hostility should Richter find the review unfavorable. He pressured his daughter, Gigi, into a career in art and art conservation; after his death she returned to her original passion of the natural sciences later becoming a noted botanist publishing under her married name, Crompton. Richter’s Giorgioni book is still considered an essential work on the study of the artist.

    Selected Bibliography

    • [dissertation:] Melcher Feselein, ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der oberdeutschen Kunst im XVI. Jahrhundert. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 1907, published, Munich: Kastner & Callwey, 1908;
    • “Lotto’s Portrait of a Young Barberini.” International Studio 99 (May 1931): 26-27;
    • “Three Different Types of Titian’s Self-portraits.” Apollo 13 (June 1931): 339-343;
    • “Conscious and Subconscious elements in the creation of works of art.” Art Bulletin 15 (September 1933): 273-289;
    • “Limitations of the Gentle Art of Faking.” ARTnews 32 (November 25 1933): 14-14;
    • “Unfinished Pictures by Giorgione.” Art Bulletin 16 (September 1934): 272-290;
    • Giorgio da Castelfranco, called Giorgione. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1937;
    • and Panofsky, Erwin .“Conrad Celtes and Kunz von der Rosen: Two Problems in Portrait Identification.” Art Bulletin 24 (June 1942): 199-199;
    • [essay] “Giorgione’s Evolution in the Light of Recent Discoveries,” in De Batz, Georges. Giorgione and his circle. Baltimore,: Johns Hopkins University, 1942;
    • “Architectural Phantasies by Bramante.” Gazette des Beaux Arts (January 1943): 5-20:
    • Andrea dal Castagno. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1943;


    • [obituaries:] “George Martin Richter” The Burlington Magazine 81, no. 472 (July 1942): 181;
    • “Dr. G. M. Richter, An Art Authority.” New York Times June 11, 1942, p. 23;

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Richter, George Martin." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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