Anselm Kiefer: Master of Destruction or Giver of Hope

Errin Courtney Johnson


Anselm Kiefer is a German artist that lived in post-war Germany after World War II. Post-war Germany at that time was full of issues such as rebuilding and creating a new identity. Kiefer was from a generation where the war was hidden from them and when he found out about the events that happened he did not look for a new identity for Germany but rather to own the identity and disasters that were being hidden from his generation. During World War II, Germany had been involved in awful crimes to humanity and Kiefer decided not to ignore them but to own them. He never liked the idea of covering up and trying to hide what had happened but instead he felt that showing them and bringing them to the fore front would bring about healing for the populace living in a devastated nation. Kiefer with his subject of war and in his later works having subjects of disasters has been viewed as the master of destruction. However, in my research I have found that master of destruction is not the right title for Kiefer. I now realize that, like other historians, I was fixated on the appearance of his work and did not look more closely at the work to see the spiritual meaning and the hope that exists in his work. In this paper I intend to show how Anselm Kiefer is not the “master of destruction” like he has been constructed by his critics, but that by his use of religion, mythology, and iconography he is a giver of hope after the devastation and destruction has been done.


Kiefer, Destruction, Mythology, Spirituality, World War II, Chernobyl

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