Art of the 20th Century

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Joseph Beuys


Joseph Beuys

b. 1921, Krefeld, Germany; d. 1986, Dusseldorf

Joseph Beuys was born May 12, 1921, in Krefeld, Germany. During his school years in Kleve, Beuys was exposed to the work of Achilles Moortgat, whose studio he often visited, and was inspired by the sculptures of Wilhelm Lehmbruck. Beuys began to study medicine in 1940, but his studies were interrupted when he joined the army and served as a fighter pilot. During a mission in 1943, he was badly injured when his plane crashed in a desolate region of south Russia. This experience would resonate in all of his later work.

After the war, he decided to dedicate his life to art. In 1947, he registered at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, where he studied under Joseph Enseling and Ewald Matare. After Beuys graduated in 1951, the brothers Franz Joseph and Hans van der Grinten began to collect his work. Eventually becoming his most important patrons, they organized his first solo show at their house in Kranenburg in 1953. Beuys was appointed professor of monumental sculpture at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in 1961. The year after, he began to associate with Fluxus artists, principally Nam June Paik and George Maciunas, and later he met Minimalist artist Robert Morris. He helped to organize the Festum Fluxorum Fluxus at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in 1963, and he participated for the first time in Documenta in Kassel in 1964.

In 1967, Beuys founded the German Student Party, one of the numerous political groups that he organized during the next decade. In 1972, he was dismissed from the Staatliche Kunstakademie Dusseldorf amid great controversy for admitting to his class over 50 students who previously had been rejected. The following year, he founded the Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research. He increasingly became involved in political activities and in 1976 ran for the German Bundestag. In 1978, he was made a member of the Akademie der Kunst, Berlin. The 1970s were also marked by numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States. Beuys represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 1976 and 1980. A retrospective of his work was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1979. He was made a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, in 1980. During the inauguration of the 1982 Documentain Kassel, Beuys planted the first of 7,000 oak trees; in other cities, he repeated this tree-planting action several times in the following years. In January 1986, the artist received the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize in Duisburg. On January 23, 1986, Beuys died in Dusseldorf.


How to Explain Paintings to a Dead Hare
Photo from Performance on Nov. 26


I Like America and America Likes Me


I Like America and America Likes Me


I Like America and America Likes Me


Das Ende des 20


Infiltration homogine pour piano a queue


The Skin




Eurasia Siberiam Symphony


Beuys Stamp Vers. 2


The Pack


Homage to Joseph Beuys
 Suit by David Cole


17 Installation Shot "all in the present must be transformed: Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys"
at the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin




Installation view of Fond III/3, 1979, and Fond IV/4, 1979




Animal Woman, 1949


Virgin, April 4, 1979/June 23, 1979


Virgin, April 4, 1979


Earthquake, 1981


F.I.U.: The Defense of Nature, 1983-1985


Untitled, 1984


Lightning with Stag in its Glare (Blitzschlag Mit Lichtschein auf Hirsch), 1985









Elk with Woman and Faunesse


Medusa Gorgon


Before the Birth


Death and the Girl


Female Artiste


Four Girls




Queen Bee (for Bronze Sculpture)


Sheep's Skeleton



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