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Johannes Siegfried (Hans) Richter was born on April 6, 1888, in Berlin. He studied architecture for a short while at Berlin University and in 1908 enrolled at the city’s Fine Arts Academy. The following year he studied at the Weimar Academy, focusing on the Old Masters. Around 1912 he was introduced to modern art through the works of the Blaue Reiter group, and the following year he visited the Erster Deutsche Herbstsalon at Der Sturm gallery in Berlin, where he became familiar with the works of the Fauvists, Cubists, and Futurists. His initial art production was, however, interrupted by the war; he served on the front until 1916, when he was discharged on account of an injury. That same year the magazine Die Aktion, with which he had previously collaborated, devoted a special issue to him, and he held his first solo show at the Hans Goltz gallery in Munich.
Richter then moved to Zurich and joined the Dada movement. In 1917, after a brief Expressionist period from which his visionary portraits originate, he started experimenting with abstraction. In 1918 he met the Swedish painter Viking Eggeling and, finding their practices shared common ground, he started to collaborate with him. The following year he produced his first Prélude piece, based on a formal pattern that developed uninterruptedly along a strip of paper. In 1920 he joined the Berlin November Group and collaborated with the Dutch periodical De Stijl. In an attempt to confer real movement to his work, he moved towards filmmaking and shot Rhythmus 21, his first abstract film, in 1921. From 1923 to 1926 he managed the magazine G with Mies van der Rohe and Werner Graeff and went on to make documentaries, advertisements, and experimental films, all the while continuing to paint.
In 1940 he moved to the U.S., where two years later he was nominated director of the Film Institute at the City College of New York and started a teaching career, which would last fifteen years. Over this period he became part of the American Abstract Expressionists. In 1957 he finished the film Dadascope with poems and prose recited by Hans Arp, Marchel Duchamp, Raoul Hausmann, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Kurt Schwitters. Hans Richter, whose work has been exhibited in major museums worldwide, died in Locarno, Switzerland, on February 1, 1976.