In German, the words Essenz and Eksistenz immediately summon the theories of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) as developed in his landmark treatise Sein und Zeit (Being and Time, 1927). Heidegger coined the hyphenated Ek-sistenz to play on the German word Ecke (corner, or, more abstractly, a specific place), suggesting the isolated position of each human being in the world. The mountains in both drawings, rendered in relief (as in another watercolor from 1975, Wild Emperor) and in profile, are emblazoned with Heidegger's neologism. Kiefer was also fascinated by Heidegger's ambiguous relationship to National Socialism. The philosopher had been forbidden to teach for many years after World War II because of his ties to the Nazis yet still became an important influence for many postwar Jewish intellectuals such as Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) and Jacques Derrida (1930-2004).
Inscription: Inscribed (upper right, in watercolor): Ek-sistenz; (lower center, in blue watercolor): Essenz; (lower left): für Julia
private collection (1975–83; sold in 1983 to d'Offay); [Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 1983–95; sold to MMA]
London. Anthony d'Offay Gallery. "Anselm Kiefer: Watercolours, 1970–1982," May 24–July 9, 1983, no. 12 (as "Essenz–Ek–sistenz").