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Anselm Kiefer was born on March 8, 1945, in Donaueschingenmarker. He is a Germanmarker painter and sculptor. He studied with Joseph Beuys during the 1970s. His works incorporate materials such as straw, ash, clay, lead, and shellac. The poems of Paul Celan have played a role in developing Kiefer's themes of German history and the horror of the Holocaust, as have the theological concepts of Kabbalah.

In his entire body of work, Kiefer argues with the past and addresses taboo and controversial issues from recent history. Themes from Nazi rule are particularly reflected in his work; for instance, the painting "Margarethe" (oil and straw on canvas) was inspired by Paul Celan's well-known poem "Todesfuge" ("Death Fugue").

His works are characterised by a dull/musty, nearly depressive, destructive style and are often done in large scale formats. In most of his works, the use of photography as an output surface is prevalent and earth and other raw materials of nature are often incorporated. It is also characteristic of his work to find signatures and/or names of people of historical importance, legendary figures or places particularly pregnant with history. All of these are encoded sigils through which Kiefer seeks to process the past; this has resulted in his work being linked with a style called "New Symbolism."

Life and work

In 1951 he moved to Ottersdorf and attended grammar school in Rastattmarker. In 1966 he left law and Romance language studies at University of Freiburg to study at art academies in Freiburgmarker, Karlsruhemarker, and Düsseldorfmarker. Kiefer began his career as a photographer with performances in which he mimicked the Nazi salute calling for Germans to remember and to acknowledge the loss to their culture through the mad xenophobia of the Third Reich. In 1969 at Galerie am Kaiserplatz, Karlsruhemarker, he presented his first single exhibition "Besetzungen (Occupations)" with a series of photographs about controversial political actions.

By 1970 while studying under the tutelage of Joseph Beuys in Düsseldorf Kunstakademie, his stylistic leanings resembled Georg Baselitz' approach. He worked with glass, straw, wood and plant parts. The use of these materials meant that his art works became temporary and fragile, which Kiefer himself is well aware of. The fragility of his work contrasts with the stark subject matter in his paintings. This use of familiar materials to express ideas was influenced by Joseph Beuys' art practice, in which Beuys used fat and carpet felt. It is also typical of the Neo-Expressionist style.

In the 1970s he incorporated German mythology (see also: Jonathan Meese) in particular, and in the following decade he argued with the Kabbalah. He went on expanded journeys throughout Europe, USA and the middle east, in which the latter two journeys further influenced his work. Besides paintings, Kiefer created sculptures, watercolors, woodcuts, photographs and books.

By the 1980s, Kiefer’s themes widened from a focus on Germany'smarker role in civilization to the fate of art and culture in general. His work became more sculptural and involved not only national identity and collective memory, but also occult symbolism, theology and mysticism. The theme of all the work is the trauma experienced by entire societies, and the continual rebirth and renewal in life.

In 1990 he was awarded a Wolf Prize. In 1999 the Japan Art Association awarded him the Praemium Imperiale for his lifetime achievements. In the explanatory statement it reads:

"A complex critical engagement with history runs through Anselm Kiefer's work. His paintings as well as the sculptures of Georg Baselitz created an uproar at the 1980 Venice Biennale: the viewers had to decide whether the apparent Nazi motifs were meant ironically or whether the works were meant to convey actual fascist ideas. Kiefer worked with the conviction that art could heal a traumatized nation and a vexed, divided world. He created epic paintings on giant canvases that called up the history of German culture with the help of depictions of figures such as Richard Wagner or Goethe, thus continuing the historical tradition of painting as a medium of addressing the world. Only a few contemporary artists have such a pronounced sense of art's duty to engage the past and the ethical questions of the present, and are in the position to express the possibility of the absolution of guilt through human effort."

Since 1992 he established in Barjacmarker, Francemarker and transformed his 35-hectare studio compound La Ribaute into a Gesamtkunstwerk, which can literally be entered. His studio is enormous and in many ways is a comment on industrialization. He has created there an extensive system of glass buildings, archives, installations, storerooms for materials and paintings, subterranean chambers and corridors.

From 1995 to 2001, Kiefer started a cycle of large paintings of the cosmos. He also started to turn to sculpture, though lead still remains his preferred medium.

Anselm Kiefer’s exhibition, Velimir Chlebnikov, was first shown in a small studio near Barjac in the South of France then moved to White Cubemarker in London and finished in the Aldrich Museum in rural Connecticut. The work consists of 30 large paintings—six-feet high and around 10-feet long—hanging on two banks of 15 on facing walls of an expressly constructed grooved steel building that mimics the studio in which it was originally created. The works are cluttered with items such as string, gloves, sunflowers and miniature warships. While most of Kiefer’s works explore the ambitions and failures of humans, this work illustrates the ability to love and create despite our tendency for evil and vanity.

The builder and arts patron Hans Grothe will present 30 to 50 of the artist's works in the yet-to-be-constructed Anselm Kiefer Museum near the Kurfürstendammmarker in Berlinmarker in 2007.

In 2008, Anselm Kiefer was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Art historian Werner Spies said in his speech, that Kiefer is a passionate reader who takes impulses from literature for his work.

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