Joseph Beuys



Not on display

Joseph Beuys 1921–1986
Original title
Oil paint and graphite on cardboard and paper adhered to plywood
Support: 692 × 694 mm
frame: 910 × 847 × 52 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
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


Score 1967 is a large collage work by the German artist Joseph Beuys consisting of three irregular shapes joined together in an apparently haphazard fashion, the largest of which is a piece of cardboard with rough, torn edges to which are attached two smaller pieces of paper. Paint splatter covers the entire surface of the cardboard which also has some masking tape along the top edge. Using reddish-brown oil paint the artist painted an abstract composition of diagonal rectangular shapes on the cardboard, around which can be discerned some individual German words handwritten in pencil, including ‘Fett’ (fat), ‘Eisen’ (iron) and ‘Filz’ (felt), substances that are central to Beuys’s material practice. Both the pieces of paper have torn upper and right edges, and are glued to the cardboard along one of their straight edges. They are completely covered in the same red-brown paint used on the cardboard, but also contain hand-made holes gouged from the approximate middle of their shapes that look almost like keyholes. It seems as if Beuys re-used or recycled an old bit of cardboard that was in his studio, perhaps previously used to test paint colours while the paper appears equally worn and discarded. Assembled together as a collage these materials are transformed into an abstract composition, unified by the addition of the thick brown oil paint.

While the title of this work may suggest a relation to a musical composition, the artist in fact used the term Partitur (the German word for musical score) to name a great number of drawings not comprehensible as ‘scores’ in a musical, or even performative sense. The term instead encompasses a wide range of different outputs on paper that may or may not relate individually to one of the artist’s performance works or ‘actions’ which dominated Beuys’s artistic practice in the mid-1960s as a result of his involvement with the Fluxus group in Düsseldorf.

The idea of recycling previously used materials chimes with the artist’s wider interest in renewal and rebirth in his art. The brown paint substance that dominates this work is Beuys’s Braunkreuz, a type of common, household oil paint first used by the artist in 1958, and which he named ‘Brown cross’ after the form on which he first experimented with the paint (Seymour 1983, p.21). Its reddish-brown hue is reminiscent of rust, dried blood, and dirt, while the name evokes symbols associated with such far-ranging ideologies as Christianity, Nazism, and occultism. It features in many of Beuys’s drawings of the 1960s, from small interventions such as the triangle in Play 17 1963 (Tate AR00115) to grand painterly sweeps, for example the main element in the drawing Felt Action 1963 (Tate AR00700). As the writer and curator Anne Seymour explains of Braunkreuz:

Sometimes a colour may be chosen deliberately so as not to have any other connotations, especially with art … It has been used in drawings … mostly sculptural in large solid areas, more as substance than colour … The inference that this is very much a sculptor’s approach to working on paper is emphasised by the grounds Beuys uses for drawings and the way he incorporates collage or mounts several sheets together into a single image.
(Seymour 1983, p.21.)

Drawing was considered by Beuys as a rapidly-paced and multifarious medium; a way to meditate on and experiment with various source materials and ideas that could potentially evolve in different media. The curator Ann Temkin has written:

The concept of drawing as a score had a solid precedent in Beuys’s own understanding of drawing. The score provides a suitable metaphor for Beuys’s drawing enterprise as a whole. It echoes his consistent reference to the drawings as a source of ideas from which to work and as a form of blueprint for his artistic projects. The score exemplifies Beuys’s preference for process over product, and the concept of art as an event that takes place in time rather than one that exists in stasis.
(Temkin and Rose 1993, p.50.)

This work, like many of Beuys’s scores, and in contrast to the scores used in Fluxus participatory events, cannot be easily decoded or understood by anyone other than the artist. It is a private memorandum of an experimental thought process, recorded in collage form. The writer and curator Jeannot Simmen has considered the diverse range of surfaces Beuys used for drawing, which included:

envelopes, book covers, pages from newspapers or notebooks or ledgers, wallpaper, corrugated cardboard, silver foil, wax-paper, normal paper. His formats might seem accidental: the paper or board might be torn, punched or folded, cut into separate pieces or glued together. The chance involved in his selection of grounds and working materials is not incidental to Beuys, though, because it is an integral part of his creative process; for him medium and ground form an indivisible unity.
(Simmen 1979, p.86.)

Further reading
Anne Seymour, ‘The Drawings of Joseph Beuys’, in Joseph Beuys Drawings, exhibition catalogue, City Art Galleries, Leeds 1983, pp.7–26.
Jeannot Simmen, ‘Shadows of Reality’, in Heiner Bastian and Jeannot Simmen (eds.), Joseph Beuys – Zeichnungen, Tekeningen, Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Nationalgalerie, Berlin 1979, pp.85–90.
Ann Temkin and Bernice Rose (eds.), Thinking is Form: The Drawings of Joseph Beuys, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1993.

Stephanie Straine
May 2011

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Online caption

The title of 'Partitur' indicates that this collage is a score, which sets it in a musical context. The idea of a work of art as a 'score' reflects the artist's concept of drawing as a source or 'reservoir' of ideas for future artistic projects. However, unlike most musical scores, which are designed to be read by anyone wishing to perform the piece, this work remains personal to the artist. Beuys's first 'action' was performed in 1963, in connection with the Fluxus group. Although the group included artists experimenting in all forms of artistic activity, it was their use of music which was particularly influential on Beuys.

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