Bohemia Lies by the Sea

Artist: Anselm Kiefer (German, born Donaueschingen, 1945)

Date: 1996

Medium: Oil, emulsion, shellac, charcoal, and powdered paint on burlap

Dimensions: 75 1/4 in. × 18 ft. 5 in. (191.1 × 561.3 cm)
Other (left panel component a): 89 in. × 9 ft. 2 1/2 in. (226.1 × 280.7 cm)
Other (right panel component b): 89 in. × 9 ft. 2 1/2 in. (226.1 × 280.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift and Joseph H. Hazen Foundation Purchase Fund, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.4ab

Rights and Reproduction: © Anselm Kiefer


Anselm Kiefer was born in Donaueschingen, Baden-Württemburg, Germany, and raised in towns in the Black Forest region near the east bank of the Rhine. After studying law and French at the university in Freiburg (1965), he pursued art at Karlsruhe Art Academy under Horst Antes. In the early 1970s he studied informally with Joseph Beuys on occasional visits to Düsseldorf. From 1971 to 1992 Kiefer lived in Hornbach in the Oden Forest in the Rhineland-Palatinate; since 1992 he has resided in southern France. He has traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Asia, and Central America. Kiefer's work was first exhibited in 1969, and since then he has had many gallery and museum shows in Europe and America. A large retrospective exhibition traveled to Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York in 1987–88.

While this recent landscape is characteristic of Kiefer's command of scale and his coupling of deep perspectives with exceptionally rich impastoed surfaces, it conveys a lyrical, even elegiac, mood that has emerged in the artist's work since he left Germany to settle in France. Along the center ridge and on either side of the rutted country road bloom an abundance of pink-orange poppies, a flower associated since antiquity with dreams, sleep, and death. The poppy is also the emblem of military veterans, whose presence is evoked here by occasional drips of paint the color of dried blood. Kiefer has further enriched the surface with streaks of light-reflecting shellac. He inscribed the title of the work along the extremely high horizon line and along the left side of the road, where the partly obscured letters diminish in size as they recede. Kiefer took the words from the title of a well-known poem by the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973) that concerns longing for utopia while recognizing that it can never be found, just as the former kingdom of Bohemia, landlocked in central Europe, can never lie by the sea.