Artist biography

Joseph Beuys born 1921 [- 1986]

German sculptor, draughtsman, creator of action-performances, political leader and teacher. Born at Krefeld, but spent most of his early life in or near Kleve. In the Luftwaffe 1940-5, part of the time as dive-bomber pilot. Shot down over the Crimea in a snowstorm in 1943, badly wounded and looked after for some days by Tartars. Began to make watercolours and drawings of a highly individual kind. Studied 1947-51 at the Düsseldorf Academy under the sculptor Mataré. His interest in Rudolf Steiner, Christianity, mythology, botany and zoology led him to evolve a rich and complex symbolism, including archetypal animal images of hares, sheep, swans, bees, etc. First one-man exhibition at the Städtisches Museum Haus Koekkoek, Kleve, 1961. Moved from Kleve to Düsseldorf in 1961 and became professor of sculpture at Düsseldorf Academy. Participated in the Fluxus movement from 1962 and started in 1963 to give action-performances using such elements as dead hares, fat and felt. Founded the Deutschen Studentenpartei als Metapartei in 1967 and the Organisation für direkte Demokratie durch Volksabstimmung (freie Volksiniative e.V.) 1971, and expounded their principles in discourse-discussions. Conflicts with authority over his teaching methods culminated in 1972 in his dismissal from the Düsseldorf Academy by the Minister of Science, followed by a strike of his students and widespread protests. Lives in Düsseldorf.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.51-2