Anselm Kiefer Facts

Anselm Kiefer is a German painter and sculptor. His paintings often incorporate straw, ash, lead, clay, and shellac (resin), and are often thematically influenced by German history and literature.

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Facts About Anselm Kiefer

  • Anselm Kiefer was born in 1945 at the very end of World War 2 in Donaueschingen, Germany.
  • His mother gave birth to him in the cellar of a hospital, and a railway junction by his family’s house was bombed on the same day.
  • Donaueschingen was badly bombed during the war, and in 1951 his family relocated to Ottersdorf.
  • Anselm Kiefer attended the University of Frieburg. He was originally studying pre-law and Romance languages but changed his degree to on in art. He studied at an art academy in Karlsruhe where one of his teachers was the artist Peter Dreher.
  • From 1971 to 1992, Anselm Kiefer lived and worked in the Hornbach district of Walldurn. This period of his career is known as The German Years.
  • In 1992, he moved to Barjac in France, leaving his wife and children in Germany.
  • He moved to Paris, France in 2008.
  • He is best known for his paintings with thickly encrusted surfaces, achieved by layering oil paint and mixing it directly onto the canvas, and by adding other elements including lead, dried flowers, broken glass, straw, and clay.

My paintings are never one image, they contain layers of images.

Anselm Kiefer
  • Anselm Kiefer’s 1983 work To the Unknown Painter sold for $3.6 million in 2011.
  • In 2018, Anselm Kiefer became an Austrian citizen.
  • Because his artwork draws on some of the same German myths, history, and literature as did some of the Third Reich propaganda, Anselm Kiefer’s work has drawn both criticism and praise for exploring Germany’s past. He is unflinchingly willing to explore taboo themes, such as the Holocaust, and his work forced the post-war population to acknowledge what had happened even if they’d prefer to try and forget about it.

When I was growing up, the Holocaust did not exist. No one spoke about it in the 60s. I felt that there was something hidden. Only in 1975 in Germany did they finally start showing exactly what had happened during the Holocaust.

Anselm Kiefer
  • He was influenced by Joseph Beuys and Georg Baselitz.
  • He often incorporates fragments of text into his paintings, drawing on poems, novels, slogans and the names of historically important individuals.
  • His art has been exhibited in cities all over the world, including New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Bilbao, Basel, Zurich, Venice, Madrid, Hiroshima, Berlin, Washington DC, and London.
  • He identifies with the philosophers Roland Barthes, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Martin Heidegger, Leibniz, Carl Schmitt, and Gustav Radbruch.
  • In addition to referencing German myths and history, Anselm Kiefer’s work also draws on stories from Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, and Kábbalah.

I don’t think a painting is ever finished. It’s in flux, it’s in movement.

Anselm Kiefer
  • According to Anselm Kiefer, Vincent Van Gogh was the most important painter.
  • Many of his paintings are inspired by the poems of Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann.
  • Anselm Kiefer is an avid reader and he owns a large library.

As a young boy, I always played in ruins. I had no toys but I had old bricks. For me, ruins are the beginning of something new. Not the end, the beginning.

Anselm Kiefer