Anselm Kiefer
Sulamith, 1983

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Artist name
Anselm Kiefer
Date created
oil, emulsion, shellac, acrylic paint, woodcut, and straw on linen
113 1/2 in. × 146 in. (288.29 cm × 370.84 cm)
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Anselm Kiefer
Permanent URL
Artwork status
On view on floor 6 as part of German Art After 1960

Audio Stories

The poem that inspired this painting

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Music: Bach’s fugue in C-sharp minor (or similar) 


SFX: Paul Celan reads first few lines of Todesfuge, in German.  



German artist Anselm Keifer makes work that openly grapples with the guilt and horror of his country’s history. He made this painting, “Sulamith” – and the one nearby, Margarthe — in response to a poem about the Holocaust. The poem is called “Death Fugue,” by the Jewish poet Paul Celan.  



Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night 

we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening 

we drink and we drink 


A man lives in the house  

he plays with his vipers  

he writes 

he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margeurite 

your ashen hair Shulamith  


we shovel a grave in the air there you won’t lie too cramped 

He shouts jab this earth deeper you lot there you others sing up and play 

he grabs for the rod in his belt he swings it his eyes are blue 

jab your spades deeper you lot there  

you others  

play on for the dancing … .  



Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night 

we drink you at midday and morning we drink you at evening 

we drink and we drink 

a man lives in the house your goldenes Haar Margeurite 

your aschenes Haar Shulamith he plays with his vipers 

He shouts play death more sweetly Death is a master from Deutschland 

he shouts scrape your strings darker you’ll rise then in smoke to the sky 

you’ll have a grave then in the clouds there you won’t lie too cramped 


Music: fades 

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Other Works by Anselm Kiefer

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