• Post-War & Contemporary Aftern auction at Christies

    Sale 2221

    Post-War & Contemporary Afternoon Session

    11 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 380

    Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)

    Der Rhein

    Price Realised  


    Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
    Der Rhein
    signed and dated 'Anselm Kiefer 1983' (on the front cover)
    forty-four pages--woodcut printed with oil emulsion on paper, mounted on board and artist's metal stand
    book: 23 5/8 x 20¼ x 3 1/8 in. (60 x 51.5 x 8 cm.)
    artist's stand: 39 x 37½ x 25 in. (99 x 92.5 x 63.5 cm.)
    Executed in 1983.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    In 1983, at the height of Anselm Kiefer's deconstruction of Nazi themes, he created a series of works bearing the common title "Der Rhein", the romantic river that flows from south to north along the western border of Germany. In the context of the artist's work at the time, the simple reference to this famous river appears at first glance neutral and, indeed, quite harmless. In this series, of which the present book is one of the most fascinating examples, Kiefer frequently employs images of Nazi architecture, most specifically of Wilhelm Kreis' Hall of Soldiers, designed in 1939. The Hall of Soldiers, a monument to brave youths who gave their lives for Hitler's dream of a Thousand Year Reich, becomes transformed here into a kind of "Tomb to the Unknown Painter," a theme to which Kiefer returned time and again during the early 1980s. In doing so, Kiefer is obviously "conflating the most profound symbol of his country, the river Rhine, with an architectural manifestation of its lowest point in history and the memory, as well, of its lost artistic genius." (M. Rosenthal, "Anselm Kiefer", Philadelphia 1987, p. 106.)

    The present book also pays testimony to the conflict between nature, represented by the river Rhine, and culture, represented by architecture. Here, the trees in the background obscure the view of the building, which we know is present only through the context of the other works in the series. The columns of the building are replaced by the enormous trunks of the trees that line the historical river. Seen in this way, Kiefer's imagery seems to embrace the same kind of theosophy, or religion of nature, that is present in the works of Caspar David Friedrich. In both cases, it is nature, not buildings, that is the true "house of god."


    Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
    Private Collection, New York.
    Vivian Horan Gallery, New York.


    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Musuem, Anselm Kiefer, Bilder 1986-1980, December 1986-February 1987, pp. 107 and 111, no. 48 (illustrated).
    Tübingen, Kunsthalle, Anselm Kiefer, Bücher, 1969-1990", September-November 1990, pp. 260-265.