Wild Emperor

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

Date: 1975

Medium: Watercolor and acrylic on paper

Dimensions: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. (16.5 x 24.1 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, Molly and Walter Bareiss Gift, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.14.11

Rights and Reproduction: © Anselm Kiefer


The limestone massif of the Kaiser mountain range in the Austrian Alps is composed of two ridge peaks, the higher of which is called Wilder Kaiser (Wild Emperor). Kiefer chose to represent the Wilder Kaiser with white acrylic emulsion primer that rises in relief from the center of the watercolor ground. Perhaps he is implying a conceptual, if not exactly chemical, connection between the limestone of the Kaiser range, the traditional chalky art material gesso, and the synthetic "gesso" substitute he used to shape his mountain. In this little drawing, Kiefer adheres to the idea that a very big subject-whether cultural or geological, such as the Alps-is often best rendered in a small format.