Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)

Teutoburger Wald (Wege der Weltweisheit)

Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)
Teutoburger Wald (Wege der Weltweisheit)
oil and woodcut on paper laid down on canvas
114 3/8 x 157½in. (290.5 x 400cm.)
Executed in 1980-81
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992.
Miami, Miami Art Museum, Miami Currents: Linking Community and Collection, October 2002-March 2003.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium

Lot Essay

Vast fields of scorched earth, dark Imperial buildings in ruins and thick forests full of resurrected myth, fill Kiefer's paintings of the 1970s with a dark and all pervasive sense of the legacy of Nazism and its contamination of Germany's land, history and culture. Teutoburger Wald (Teutoburg Forest) is a large and important painting from this vital early period that forms a part of one of the artist's most important series on this theme: the Wege der Weltweisheit (Ways of Worldly Wisdom).

Following on from his depictions of the German 'Heimat' as an almost post-apocalyptic landscape or collective wound, Kiefer began in the late 1970s to paint a series of paintings based around the legendary battle of the Teutoburg Forest in A.D. 9. This battle, in which a Germanic tribe led by Arminius (Hermann), ambushed and annihilated the Roman army under the command of Quintillius Varus, is the source of a galvanizing legend linking the identity of the German people to their land. Beginning with the 1976 painting Varus (Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven) Kiefer adopted the subject of this legendary battle and its location in the chthonic depths of the Teutoburg forest as a theme for exploring the mystical links of German culture and its collective heritage from a blood stained soil.

'Blut und boden' (Blood and soil) was adopted as a rallying cry of unity between race and land invoked by the Nazis and they too made much of Arminius's battle as a totemic symbol of Pan-Germanic nationhood. In the series of paintings entitled Wege der Weltweisheit that followed Varus Kiefer presented a labyrinthine journey through past Germanic history and culture set against a burning fire in the Teutoberg forest. The title 'Ways of Worldly Wisdom' derives from a 1924 apology for Catholicism written by a Jesuit priest that used many philosophical systems to rationalize the Catholic religion. Similarly, these paintings, Teutoberg Wald, and similar versions now housed in the MoMA, New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, present a pantheon of German intellectuals, rendered in woodcut print, as a series of Teutonic icons emerging from the grains of wood and drawn together at this sacred and mystical birthplace of the idea of Germany. Echoing the book-burning ceremonies of the Nazis, Kiefer indicates the labyrinthine thread of history and also the collective implication of these disparate thinkers and creators gathered around the fire through a meandering loop of black painted lines that pass around and through the forest.

Among the pantheon that Kiefer presents are such propagators of German sovereignty as Christian Dietrich Grabbe and Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock who, in the early nineteenth century, in face of the Napoleonic threat to Germany, wrote patriotic plays invoking Arminius' battle. Also apparent are the poets Friedrich Hölderlin and Stefan George, and the composer of Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, Hoffmann von Fallersleben, all creators whose work was appropriated by the Nazis for their own ends. 'I chose these personages because power has abused them', Kiefer said. (Anselm Kiefer, cited in M. Rosenthal, Anselm Kiefer, exh. cat., New York 1987, p. 55.)

As if to make no mistake that these eminent figures of German culture and their legacy 'has been corrupted by the corrosive web that the Nazi era wove through German history, Kiefer also includes alongside them, the figures of Nazi 'martyrs' Horst Wessel and Albert Leo Schlageter. The presence of these figures amongst this otherwise illustrious gathering in this impenetrable forest suggests that the fire at the heart of the work, is less a symbol of the resurrection of the intellectual spirit than one describing the smouldering embers of German nationalism.

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