Joseph Beuys

Witches Spitting Fire


Not on display

Joseph Beuys 1921–1986
Original title
Hexen Feuer Speiend
Graphite and oil paint on paper
Support: 207 × 297 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

Witches are often seen in German art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The interest in witches at that time was linked to the larger issue of society's attempt to understand women's bodies and their fertility, a subject which still concerns the artist in this 1959 drawing. Although these images from traditional German art would have been known to Beuys, his presentation of women as witches also refers to his own particular fascination with ancient and mysterious characters. Shown against a background suggestive of flames, Beuys's depiction of these two figures as fearsome and powerful shows his respect for a world where primitive, spiritual powers take precedent.


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