Joseph Beuys

Natural History

1964–82

Artist
Joseph Beuys 1921–1986
Original title
Naturgeschichte
Medium
Household paint, shellac and sand on board
Dimensions
Support: 333 x 366 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
Reference
AR00666

Not on display

Online caption

The title given to this object relates it to Max Ernst's 'Histoire Naturelle' (Natural History) portfolio, published in 1926. Ernst used the technique of frottage to create fantastical drawings based on rubbings taken from woodgrain. Beuys has gone directly to the source of Ernst's images by presenting a piece of wood which is beautifully textured and neatly cut into a square. This work shows that Ernst's interest in the potential of the natural world was shared by Beuys. The two German artists also share a 'rebirth' myth, as Ernst claimed to have 'died' at the start of the First World War and been resuscitated in 1918.

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