Turnerin is one of a group of three black and white paintings of gymnasts that Gerhard Richter produced in 1965 and 1966. It was especially during this time that the artist perfected his use of newspaper and snapshot photographs as supporting visual material for his paintings. The original image is derived from a magazine and is included on page 11, no. 5 in the the artist's "Atlas", a collection of early photographic source material . The appropriation of popular imagery is not unlike that adopted by Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein at that time. Richter is, however, not concerned with the mass-produced scenes of advertising and entertainment that are generally associated with Pop Art in the United States, but rather with anonymous scenes from everyday life, or journalistic photography taken out of context. Richter argued: "I have tried to avoid everything that touches on known problems, or any problem for that matter: painterly, social, or aesthetic ones. I tried not to find anything concrete. Therefore, there were so many trivial themes; and again I had to be careful not to let triviality become my problem and my emblem
("Noch Kunst", Editions Droste, Dusseldorf 1970)
In spite of the technical origins of the image, Turnerin is painted with deliberate and lustrous brushstrokes and a sensitivity to the form and movement of the gymnast portrayed. At the same time, the painterly transfer of a magazine illustration, which in turn finds its origins in a journalistic photograph, further removes the spontaneity essential to the illustration of a young gymnast in motion. He also chose to paint primarily in varying shades of grey because, as he maintained, "Grey is more than any other color qualified not to represent anything at all." ("Gerhard Richter: Pintings", London 1988, p. 21).
By retaining the white border around the image, Richter stressed its photographic origins. The artist has repeatedly maintained that his intention is to paint a photograph and not a painting after a photograph. It is his way of evading the term "realism", while simultaneously creating a discussion on the interplay between photography and painting. Richter's aim in the work based on photographs was to reduce the role of the artist to choosing the format, cutting out and enlarging the material and treating the surface of the picture on the canvas. His goal was to remove the subjectivity inherent in the act of painting.