Early in the splendid new “Gerhard Richter Portraits” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London you come across a painting titled “Aunt Marianne” (1965).
At first glance, it’s an innocuous enough image. A girl in her teens holds a baby in her arms. She’s smiling shyly, he’s frowning, perhaps just about to bawl. In the background are dark blurred shapes, perhaps trees in a garden.
Those shadows, though, may just as well have been the ominous forces of mid 20th-century history closing in. The little boy is Gerhard Richter himself, born in Germany in 1932. The teenager is his mother’s sister, then 14 years old.