Jolanda Richter’s Magical Surrealism


olanda Richter’s paintings are not easy. There are no subtle hues to soak in, no soothing brook to dip our toes.

There is struggle here, yearning. Sometimes her subjects are swimming up to ceilings and out windows, other times free-fall tumbling. The hardest of all is when no movement is possible ~ the surrounding walls so close we can feel chests tightening. The fighting for air. And yet…

We cannot look away. We stay. And struggle with her.


Jolanda Richter

Dein sanftes Wort, Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm, 2011


Deanna Phoenix Selene: Who initially inspired you to start exploring art and music as a girl? Do you come from an artistic family?

Jolanda Richter: Everyone played an instrument in my family but not as professional musicians. So to study music was my first choice, because we didn’t have any painters in the family or friends as role models. But drawing was my favorite form of expression since childhood, even more than speaking. I preferred studying art encyclopedias for hours instead of playing with other children. Looking at paintings was more important to me than anything else, a world in which I found shelter. This was entirely naturally to me, a matter of course. And so I never stopped drawing.


Jolanda Richter

Participation Mystique 1, Oil on canvas, 100x140cm, 2012


Deanna Phoenix Selene: Do you have a favorite composer or piece you like to play or listen to while you paint? What is it about the cello that speaks to your soul?

Jolanda Richter: I have several favorite composers and pieces: I love requiems, especially that from Gabriel Fauré!



Jolanda Richter: Some of my other favorite composers are Jean Sibelius, Charles Gounod, Sergei Rachmaninow, Edward Elgar, Samuel Barber, Dmitri Shostakovich, Karl Weigl, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Alan Hovhaness, William Wallace, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Joly Braga Santos.

I do more listening to the cello than playing it. I love the cello concertos from Edward Elgar.



Jolanda Richter: Or from Dmitri Shostakovich.

In the family of instruments, the cello represents the melancholy in music, as in the dying swan cello part in “Le Carnaval des Animaux” from Camille Saint-Saëns.

Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Do you hear music when you paint?

Jolanda Richter: When I am standing in front of a painting from an old master in a museum, this painting is not just an object but a vivid storytelling world which provides a vision into the painter. For me, art is a special kind of language. I always hear music when I am painting, yes, a special piece for every painting, and I see pictures in my imagination while listening to music.


Le Spirit Nouveau, Jolanda Richter

L’Esprit Nouveau, Oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm, 2012


Deanna Phoenix Selene: When I gaze at your paintings, I perceive much yearning coming from your female subjects, much tension between them and their surroundings. There is a sense that they are trying desperately to get somewhere, but that in many instances they encounter obstacles that hold them back. Is this an accurate perception?


Jolanda Richter

The Forgotten 2, Oil on canvas, 45 x 45 cm, 2012


Jolanda Richter: Yes! The best short description of my work I have ever heard. My compliments to you! While my paintings are a part of myself, completely and authentically, I am reflecting also our society with its hopes, fears and problems. In particular, my female subjects are a mirror of the position of women in our time and society.


Jolanda Richter, Metamorphosis 3

Metamorphosis 3, Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm, 2009


Deanna Phoenix Selene: What do you hope your viewers will experience when they look at your pieces? Do you have one that is a particular favorite?

Jolanda Richter: When I present my work, the viewer is asked to reflect on his or her own emotions, thus conceptual and perceptual are both up to the audience. For me, there is no difference between these aspects. The viewer has to search his or her innermost feelings in order to understand. My particular favorite piece is always the one I am painting at the moment.


Jolanda Richter, The Forgotten

The Forgotten 1, Oil on canvas, 45 x 45 cm, 2012


Deanna Phoenix Selene: Have you ever been surprised with a viewer’s interpretation or reaction?

Jolanda Richter: Of course! When I started to exhibit I couldn’t handle some surprising reactions very well. But later, I understood that getting extreme reactions, whether positive or negative, was important and precious.


jolanda richter

Öl auf Leinwand, 50 x 70 cm, 2010


Deanna Phoenix Selene: You moved from the Netherlands to Hamburg and then to Vienna, all before the age of six. Do you think being exposed to these different cultures has influenced you as an artist?

Jolanda Richter: Yes, I think so, but in a different way. Moving very often made me introverted and a person who feels at home only inside myself.


jolanda richter, self-portrait

Selbstportrait mit Windhunden, Oil on canvas, 80 x 80 cm, 2010


Deanna Phoenix Selene: Who are some of your greatest influences?

Jolanda Richter: Caravaggio, Alfons Mucha, Franz von Stuck, Jacek Malczewski…



Jolanda Richter:…Jean Delville, Fernand Khnopff…



Jolanda Richter: …August Rodin, Camille Claudel, Giovanni Segantini, Anders Zorn and most symbolist artists.

Deanna Phoenix Selene
: What do you feel are the most important qualities one must possess to become a great artist?

Jolanda Richter: Rich parents! But if you don’t have that luxury, like me, you have to work harder.


Yolanda Richter, Tramonto

Tramonto 2, Oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm, 2010


Deanna Phoenix Selene: What stories or themes are you carrying with you now that you hope to explore next?

Jolanda Richter: I am in a permanent process of developing my main theme. I have to figure this out more as a creative flow than an intellectual decision. There are many ideas I develop, but when it comes to working something out, I let my intuition be my guide.


joland richter




Further Notes

To view more of Jolanda Richter‘s work, please visit her artpage at:



Combustus Managing Editor | + posts

My dream: to create a unique vehicle for artists and visionaries from all genres and all over the globe to inspire and learn from one another.

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