About the Artist
Born in 1945 in Germany at the end of World War II, Anselm Kiefer grew up in the post-war landscape. After studying law, Kiefer began pursuing the arts in the late 1960s. Kiefer often symbolically refers to his culture and identity as a German living after World War II. Landscapes, like many of Kiefer’s work, serve as a vehicle to address larger themes such as memory, identity, knowledge, and spirituality.
About the Art
Der Morgenthau Plan (The Morgenthau Plan), 2012: Almost impressionistic in nature, the floral landscape depicted in Anselm Kiefer’s der Morgenthau Plan (The Morgenthau Plan), 2012, was created by painting over a large photograph the artist took of the wildflowers in the fields outside his studio in Barjac, France. This work is large in scale and consists of paint that has been thickly applied, attributes that are typical of the artist’s landscape paintings.
Kiefer’s work often has multiple layers of meaning. In this landscape, the vibrant flowers in the field are more than simply flowers—they also serve as a symbol of a dark moment in history referenced in the title of the work. Conceived by former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., in 1944 as an action plan for Germany after World War II, the Morgenthau Plan called for the total de-industrialization of Germany and a return to an agricultural nation. Had this plan been implemented, it is believed it would have led to the death of more than ten million Germans. The Marshall Plan, which was adopted, gave Germany aid to rebuild and maintain their industrial economy.
Kiefer saturates this work with a second layer of meaning by titling this work der Morgenthau Plan: the field of flowers references both the flowers that would have grown in the agrarian Germany brought about by the plan, and the darker side of human nature.
Die Milchstrasse (The Milky Way), 1985–87: Embodying the feeling of despair or loss upon viewing a seemingly barren and desolate field, this landscape could be based on what the artist saw around him during his childhood in western Germany. Kiefer incorporates many objects into the work and adhered to the canvas. A lead funnel can be seen hanging in the middle of the canvas. The funnel is intended to refer to the medieval practice of alchemy by which it was believed that lead could be transformed into gold. This idea of something simple changed into something extraordinary reminds the viewer of the possibility of transformation.
The funnel leads into a white gash near the center of the painting that also includes the title, die Milchstrasse, or “the Milky Way.” The white gash brings lightness to the painting as a glow seems to spread out across the barren landscape from the funnel, anchored in this white gash. Upon closer viewing, one can see that the landscape is not completely desolate: there is hope represented through some light spreading across the center of the field.