Joseph Beuys Angel Whale 1953

Artwork details

Joseph Beuys 1921–1986
Angel Whale
Date 1953
Medium Graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 298 x 414 mm
Acquisition ARTIST ROOMS
Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
Not on display

Online caption

Beuys's depictions of fish and sea creatures are an extension of his lifelong interest in animals. In combining angel and whale, he brings together the heavens and the depth of the sea: an intangible spirit crossed with an enormous mammal. Beuys often turned animals into gods. He wrote: "Animals are in reality also angelic beings. They speak of a realm above human beings, of a spiritual dimension, contained within people themselves". Although the hook shape suggests physical danger for the whale, it may also refer to the ancient tribal custom of attaching fish hooks to the mouth and nostrils of a dead person in order to catch the soul as it escapes from the body.

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