Anselm Kiefer, born on March 8, 1945, is one of the most significant German artists. Growing up during the end of World War II, Kiefer dealt with very controversial subject matters in his paintings and sculptures. Kiefer went to Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat with intentions of studying law. The direction of his studies quickly changed to art in 1966, studying under Peter Dreher. A few years later, he studied under Horst Antes at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Kunste, and then studied under Joseph Beuys. Beuys had a large influence on Kiefer and the themes he worked with, such as cultural myths and symbols. In the early 1970s, shortly after getting married and moving to a secluded village in the Oden Forest, Kiefer began working with mythical and historical German figures in large format. More recently, Kiefer has branched out from German themes, incorporating ancient Hebrew and Egyptian history, theology, and mysticism. The theme constant throughout his career is the trauma societies go through, and their continuous rebirth.
Kiefer was greatly influenced by German history, especially the destruction and horror of the Holocaust. Through his paintings, Kiefer is holding a mirror up to the catastrophe and devastation Germany was left with after the war, graphically retelling a story that was – and still is – hurtful and disturbing to many. Ann Hanson observed, “there’s tragedy in every brushstroke.” Kiefer’s belief was that art is a means by which you can have a dialogue with history, so he powerfully represents ideas and emotions that will touch each viewer. Historically significant names, events, and places are often scrawled across his paintings. He juxtaposes contrasting ideas Kiefer’s works utilize materials such as straw, glass, wood, plant parts, clay, and lead. The paint used is usually in earthy or dark, somber colors, giving his paintings a depressing, tragic feel.