The highly regarded German artist Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945) began his career in the late 1960s, during a period when his country's intellectuals were involved in facing up to their nation's recent history—the Holocaust and the Nazi rape of Europe. Kiefer's work has continually dealt with these heretofore "taboo" subject matters, as well as with other elements of German culture and history, and it has effectively incorporated the provocative usage of both traditional and nontraditional materials.
Kiefer is best known for his very large works, and this publication provides an unusually detailed look at the least-known aspect of his oeuvre, his smaller works on paper. There are fifty-four works on paper in this volume, and they cover the years from 1969 to 1993. All of them entered the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995. Fifty-one are in a great variety of media—watercolors, acrylics, and painted-over photographs, for example—and they are thought to represent about one-fourth of the unique works on paper that Kiefer created between 1969 and the end of the 1980s. The remaining three are very large works composed of numerous woodcuts made slightly earlier and mounted together. The entire group comprises a comprehensive sampling of Kiefer's talent for blending biting commentary and humor.
The author, Nan Rosenthal, Consultant in the Department of Twentienth Century Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, has concentrated on Kiefer's rich references to German culture and history, providing cogent insights particularly appropriate for an American audience, who might not be conversant with those sources. Many quotations from the artist, taken from two unpublished 1997 interviews with Rosenthal, are interspersed in the text, and these add an additional important element, especially since Kiefer has rarely permitted himself to be quoted. The inclusion of full-page color illustrations of all fifty-four works, as well as more than fifty black-and-white reproductions that demonstrate pertinent connections with various works by both Kiefer and other artists, also contributes to a volume that is fascinating both visually and in scholarly content.