Anselm Kiefer

Hortus philosophorum

About this artwork

Much of Anselm Kiefer’s art is inspired by philosophy, poetry and religious texts. By writing on his canvases, photographs and other works on paper, Kiefer establishes associations between the realm of the visual and that of literature, as well as between different cultures and eras. Here he has written the title of the image – 'Hortus philosophorum', meaning garden of philosophers in Latin – in its upper left corner. The piles of books stacked precariously with layers of straw and plants between them provide a visual interpretation of the title, while the numbers floating above them suggest a form of scientific classification. Books, straw and plants are distinctive as both motifs and materials in Kiefer’s art and often appear burned, covered in lead or marked and violated in another way. Straw first appeared prominently in Kiefer’s series of Margarete/Shulamite paintings from the early 1980s inspired by Paul Celan’s famous poem ‘Death Fugue’, where it represents transience and fragility as well as beauty and bounty – a material that is easily destroyed with the power for alchemical transformation.

see media
  • title:
    Hortus philosophorum
  • accession number:
    AR01175
  • artist:
  • gallery:
  • object type:
  • subject:
  • materials:
    Photograph, black and white, on paper with paint and chalk
  • date created:
    2010
  • measurements:
    185.20 x 246.00 cm
  • credit line:
    ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2011.
  • copyright:
    © ANSELM KIEFER
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer