Art Plus – Deutschlands Geisteshelden (German Spiritual Heroes) – A painting by Anselm Kiefer

© Anselm Kiefer, Deutschlands Geisteshelden (German Spiritual Heroes), 1973

Horror’s Shadows Burn

Horror’s shadows burn
The hunting lodge stands empty
History questioned

About the Painting

Deutschlands Geisteshelden (German Spiritual Heroes) is painted in extreme perspective. The viewer is positioned at the mouth of a great hall, an amalgam of Kiefer’s former studio and Carinhall, a German hunting lodge used to store looted art during the Nazi era.

Burning torches line the walls of the space, which is empty except for the names of inspirational artists and writers scrawled above the receding floor: Joseph Beuys, Arnold Böcklin, Adalbert Stifter, Caspar David Friedrich, Theodor Storm, and many others.

This is hardly a triumphal place; the lodge keeps vigil, housing names that have become embroiled in a painful history.

Exhibited at the German Pavilion at the 1980 Venice Biennale, this monumental painting created controversy and was met with widely conflicting opinions.

This motif of the interior was a recurring subject throughout Kiefer’s work of the 1970s, as in his series of Attic Paintings. Much like Vincent van Gogh’s portraits of his bedroom, these interiors reflect the psyche of the artist and the nation, imbuing the spectator with a distinct emotional response.

Through the ominous depiction of the empty room, the painting engenders an unsettling feeling in the viewer, suggesting that something is amiss.

The painting reflects upon and critiques the myths and chauvinism that propelled the German Third Reich to power. With immense scale and ambition, Keifer’s paintings depict his generation’s ambivalence toward the grandiose impulse of German nationalism and its impact on history.

The image is both tantalisingly and deliberately provocative. The viewer through looking explores ones own perceptions and emotions related to the horrors of history.

Painting Attribution © Anselm Kiefer, Deutschlands Geisteshelden (German Spiritual Heroes), 1973

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Poem Attribution © Goff James, Horror’s Shadows Burn

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