Gerhard Richter began using photographs as the source material for his paintings in the early 1960s precisely because they were without any art historical associations. In an interview with Rolf Schön in 1972, Richter justified the importance of photography for his working methods: "I was surprised by photography, which we all use so massively every day. Suddenly, I saw it in a new way, as a picture that offered me a new view, free of all the conventional criteria I had always associated with art. It had no style, no composition, no judgement. It freed me from personal experience. For the first time, there was nothing to it: it was pure picture. That's why I wanted to have it, to show it - not to use it as a means to painting but use painting as a means to photography."(In:H.U. Obrist (ed.), 'Gerhard Richter. The Daily Practice of Painting. Writings 1962-1993', London 1993, p.73.)
'Säugling auf einem Tisch' (Infant on a Table, 1965), painted in Richter's early career, is based on a photograph from the artist's family photo album. The child, supposedly the artist himself, lays face down on a table in a bourgeois interior, smiling innocently at the camera.
The blurred effect that characterises Richter's photo-based paintings of these years conveys a transient, imprecise feeling to the image, emphasizing its nostalgic aspect, while at the same time focusing on the abstract quality of painting as a medium.
Painted shortly before Richter's first wife, Ema, gave birth to his first child, Betty, in 1966, 'Säugling auf einem Tisch' illustrates the artist's concern at this time for family portraits based on photo album images. Seen in the light of Richter's conviction that painting is "the highest form of hope", his portrait of an infant on a table can be interpreted as representing the transformation of the artist's hope at this time of establishing a family into the artistic hope of painting.