Born just after the close of World War II, Anselm Kiefer is part of a generation who grew up with the grim realities of post-war Germany. In his paintings, he explores cultural identity, posing questions about the legacy of German guilt in the face of the Holocaust and exploring the roots of current social and political ideologies or through references to ancient myth, religious lore, and historical fact. Midgard, loosely translated as "mid-earth," refers to a Norse myth that tells the story of an idyllic Earth, a place created by gods for mankind to inhabit that is overrun with evil giants. The Midgard serpent rises out of the sea, spreading chaos during an enormous battle that destroys the world.
This monumental painting portrays a scorched, densely encrusted landscape that evokes the bleakness and despair of post-war Germany. The physical landscape is literally embodied in the straw, lead, dirt, and thick pigments applied to the painted surface. The straw symbolizes natural cycles of life and decay. An organic material, it will be transformed through natural processes and eventually disappear from the surface of the work.