Anselm Kiefer has created a large canvas painting entitled To The Unknown Painter (Dem Unbekannten Maler) in 1983, using oil, acrylic, latex, emulsion, and shellac on canvas. This piece of art is part of the permanent collection at MoMA and measures 74.8 x 102.5 inches. It was showcased in The Original Copy: Photography at Mid MoMA exhibition that ran from June 15 – August 10 that same year.
The artwork’s composition speaks to its ties with mythology and philosophy as it is layered with various materials and different colors that form a textured environment with varying depths within the piece. By juxtaposing light and dark colors, Kiefer creates an interplay between the characters developed within the painting. His use of materials creates an artistic depth that can be seen throughout his preferred mediums of oil paints and clay works.
Since 1983, Anselm Kiefer has created many other pieces such as Nigredo in 1984 that carries on his distinctive style through materials such as petroleum bitumen, casein tempera, animal bones and clays amongst others. The Nigredo painting again involves the artist utilizing the effects of layering to create a complex interchange between lightness and darkness within the artwork creating an interesting dialogue between thematic elements in the painting’s composition.
To The Unknown Painter (Dem Unbekannten Maler) by Anselm Kiefer reflects some elements used in his later piece Nigredo from 1984 such as using layerings to build up its depths and figures as well as employing lighter colors to create an interplay between characters of the painting. Both pieces carry themes that involve exploring history’s relationship with memory through their heavy use of dark colors and layering techniques which are signature Kiefer techniques for his artworks throughout time which aid in descrying political inclinations or wider modern discourse conversations ongoing throughout Europe during this period along with a questioning of remembrance itself in general societal values imparting poetic justice to each artwork while still upholding a narrative cycle