‘For a long time I had a problem: I didn’t know if I would be a writer or a painter. Now I cannot change anymore, it’s done now.’ - Anselm Kiefer in the documentary Anselm Kiefer: Remembering the Future, 2014

The importance of literature and poetry

Literature, language and poetry have remained important sources for Kiefer throughout his life. Initially he even doubts whether he should become a writer or an artist and he studies Romance languages. In 1966 he decides to attend the art academy in Freiburg and later the academy in Düsseldorf.

Straw, shellac, lead and ash

The oeuvre of German artist Anselm Kiefer deals with major themes: life and death, war, destruction and decay. His often highly layered works are full of references to historical events and figures, mythology, poetry and literature. Kiefer is frequently preoccupied with the history of Germany and in particular that of the Third Reich, which he regards as his own recent history. In addition to classical painting materials, such as oil paint and canvas, he uses straw, shellac, lead and ash in his works, materials that hold great symbolic value for him.

Anselm Kiefer, Dein aschenes Haar Sulamith, 1981. Photo: Marjon Gemmeke