Exploring Germany's post war identity, history and mythology by incorporating representational and symbolic motifs through natural materials such as straw, earth, tree roots and lead, the confrontational canvases of German artist, Anselm Kiefer, are exceptional for their provoking impact on human psyche.
Famous for confronting his culture's dark past and unrealized potential, Kiefer was born on March 8, 1945, in Donaueschingen, Germany. In 1951, Kiefer moved to Ottersdorf with his family and attended grammar school in Rastatt. In 1965, he entered the University of Freiburg to study pre-law and romance languages but soon switched to art, studying at Art Academies in Freiburg, Karlsruhe and Düsseldorf.
Kiefer began his artistic career with a provocative photographic series ‘Occupations’ (1969), which causes controversy because of its overt dealing with the Nazi past. In 1970, Kiefer moved to Düsseldorf and there he befriended the artist Joseph Beuys, who would have enduring effect on Kiefer.
In 1971, Kiefer created his first large landscape paintings. These works imbued with Germany’s morbid past, evoking the desolate fields of mass burial sites and concentration camps. Throughout the 1970s and 1980, Kiefer travelled to Europe, the United States and Middle East. These experiences greatly influenced his perspective and his work, motivating a shift away from themes of German history toward subjects more broadly related to the roles of art and mythology in social and religious contexts.
Kiefer also befriended fellow Neo-Expressionist painter Georg Baselitz and in 1980 he was chosen to represent Germany at the Venice Biennale with Baselitz. In 1992, Kiefer moved to France. Between 1995 and 2001, he created an abstract series based on the cosmos, thus broadened his repertoire of theme and media.
Kiefer was awarded the Wolf Prize in 1990. In 1999 the Japan Art Association awarded him the Praemium Imperiale for his lifetime achievements. In 2008, Kiefer was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. In 2011 Kiefer was appointed to the chair of creativity in art at the Collège de France.
Kiefer brought a revitalized awareness of the symbolic use of everyday non-art resources in painting. This practice rekindled interest in three dimensional, many layered canvases and encouraged later artists to experiment with materials.