Anselm Kiefer is a German painter and sculptor. He studied with Joseph Beuys and Peter Dreher 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 spiritual concepts ofKabbalah.
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 calledNew Symbolism.
Kiefer has lived and worked in France since 1991. Since 2008, he has lived and worked primarily in Paris and in Alcácer do Sal, Portugal.