Yggdrasil, ca. 1980
Anselm Kiefer (German, born 1945)
Gouache and acrylic on photograph; 32 1/2 x 23 1/4 in. (82.6 x 59.1 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1995 (1995.14.36)
In one of the Old Norse Eddic poems, the Ballad of Gimnir (or Odin, chief of the gods, who narrates), the structure of the universe is described as a vast evergreen ash tree, Yggdrasil. Posing as the tree here is Kiefer himself in a self-portrait photograph taken in 1969, in which he wears a crocheted dress and holds a branch (it has been pointed out that die Kiefer in German is a type of pine tree). He has painted in the stump of the tree on which he stands and adds a serpentlike dragon, Nidhöggs, who gnaws at its roots. At left the world itself is represented by a rough caricature of a snow globe in which pines surround a little house, a quaint scene that brings to mind scenes of the Black Forest where the artist was raised.