In 1980 Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) began a series of works inspired by the poem «Todesfuge» (Death Fugue) by the german-speaking Jewish-Romanian poet Paul Celan (1920-1970), who had left Romania after his parents’ death at the hands of the Nazis.

The poem deals obliquely with the horror of the Holocaust. Its most famous line is perhaps «The Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland» (Death is a master from Germany). Above is one of the Margarete paintings – Margarite’s may refer to the heroine in Goethe’s Faust (Kiefer has used straw to stand in for her golden hair).

Margarites’ blonde hair is contrasted in the poem with the «ashen» hair of the Jewish Shulamite, favorite wife of King Solomon as suggested in another painting titled ‘Shulamite» (below), for which the artist uses ash as material.


what: (for the second painting) Anselm Kiefer, Shulamite, 1983, oil, emulsion, woodcut, shellac, acrylic, and straw on canvas, 213 x 145 inches / 541 x 368.3 cm (Doris and Donald Fisher Collection). © Anselm Kiefer, courtesy of the artist.

when: on Friday 18/11/2016

where: at the Martin Gropius Bau (The British view: Germany Memories of a nation, Berlin, 8/10/2016 – 9/1/2017)