The Challenging Work of Anselm Kiefer

"Heaven on Earth" Watercolor, gouache, and ballpoint pen on paper by Anselm Kiefer
“Heaven on Earth” Watercolor, gouache, and ballpoint pen on paper by Anselm Kiefer


All artwork is held at


Text is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well

Bohemia Lies by the Sea
Bohemia Lies by the Sea

“Anselm Kiefer was born in Donaueschingen, Baden-Württemburg, Germany, and raised in towns in the Black Forest region near the east bank of the Rhine. After studying law and French at the university in Freiburg (1965), he pursued art at Karlsruhe Art Academy under Horst Antes. In the early 1970s he studied informally with Joseph Beuys on occasional visits to Düsseldorf. From 1971 to 1992 Kiefer lived in Hornbach in the Oden Forest in the Rhineland-Palatinate; since 1992 he has resided in southern France. He has traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Asia, and Central America. Kiefer’s work was first exhibited in 1969, and since then he has had many gallery and museum shows in Europe and America. A large retrospective exhibition traveled to Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York in 1987–88.

While this recent landscape is characteristic of Kiefer’s command of scale and his coupling of deep perspectives with exceptionally rich impastoed surfaces, it conveys a lyrical, even elegiac, mood that has emerged in the artist’s work since he left Germany to settle in France. Along the center ridge and on either side of the rutted country road bloom an abundance of pink-orange poppies, a flower associated since antiquity with dreams, sleep, and death. The poppy is also the emblem of military veterans, whose presence is evoked here by occasional drips of paint the color of dried blood. Kiefer has further enriched the surface with streaks of light-reflecting shellac. He inscribed the title of the work along the extremely high horizon line and along the left side of the road, where the partly obscured letters diminish in size as they recede. Kiefer took the words from the title of a well-known poem by the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973) that concerns longing for utopia while recognizing that it can never be found, just as the former kingdom of Bohemia, landlocked in central Europe, can never lie by the sea.” –text via

Bohemia Lies by the Sea

Ingeborg Bachmann

If houses here are green, I’ll step inside a house.
If bridges here are sound, I’ll walk on solid ground.
If love’s labour’s lost in every age, I’ll gladly lose it here.

If it’s not me, it’s one who is as good as me.

If a word here borders on me, I’ll let it border.
If Bohemia still lies by the sea, I’ll believe in the sea again.
And believing in the sea, thus I can hope for land.

If it’s me, then it’s anyone, for he’s as worthy as me.
I want nothing more for myself. I want to go under.

Under – that means the sea, there I’ll find Bohemia again.
From my grave, I wake in peace.
From deep down I know now, and I’m not lost.

Come here, all you Bohemians, seafarers, dock whores, and ships
unanchored. Don’t you want to be Bohemians, all you Illyrians,
Veronese and Venetians. Play the comedies that make us laugh

until we cry. And err a hundred times,
as I erred and never withstood the trials,
though I did withstand them time after time.

As Bohemia withstood them and one fine day
was released to the sea and now lies by water.

I still border on a word and on another land,
I border, like little else, on everything more and more,

a Bohemian, a wandering minstrel, who has nothing, who is held by nothing,
gifted only at seeing, by a doubtful sea, the land of my choice.

Poetry VIA

Fiona Bevan – Slo Mo Tiger Glo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s