Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History

Reader 1

Mary MacNaughton

Reader 2

Bill Anthes

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© 2012 Isabel L. Roth


Anselm Kiefer was born in Germany, 1945—the year of Adolf Hitler’s suicide, and subsequently, the end of World War II. His own beginnings were shrouded by a national “repression” of history. This repression was at odds with Kiefer’s needs to establish his own origin. For this reason, the spirituality in his earlier work is often overshadowed by its subject—Nazi Germany. This thesis will look back on Kiefer’s work through the lens of mythology in an effort to re-evaluate his earlier art within the context of his works since 1990. From the 1970s to the present, Kiefer has drawn from mythology to find links between personal and universal human experience. We begin by examining Kiefer’s controversial Attic Paintings of 1973. In the Attic Paintings, German and Christian mythology helped Kiefer understand his origin as a post-war German artist. Kiefer then turned his attention to myths from outside cultures throughout the 1980s. We will look closely at three paintings from the 1980s that incorporate Greek, Judaic, and Egyptian mythology in an effort to understand Kiefer’s larger goals in broadening his mythological base. Following this discussion, we will examine two paintings from the 1990s and his 2007 permanent installation at the Louvre Museum. These selected works serve to illustrate how Kiefer presented his own cultivated, personal mythology under the stars in his still ongoing cosmic series. The 1990s mark Kiefer’s broadest expansion yet; in a sense, he went from “the attic to the universe” over the course of three decades.