Joseph Beuys

Whale trap


Not on display

Joseph Beuys 1921–1986
Graphite and oil paint on cardboard
Support: 240 × 372 mm
frame: 670 × 540 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

Online caption

Beuys's depictions of sea creatures reflect his interest in tribal magic and beliefs. The whale is associated with religion in several cultures, as well as being referred to in the Bible, most notably in the story of Jonah and the whale. Here, three whales circle around a shape which presumably represents a trap. The artist often used sound in his performed 'actions' and this painting also has an aspect of movement and sound. The whales are shown producing water from their blow holes, and have their mouths open as if communicating with whale song.

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