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Joseph Beuys

Krefeld 1921 - Düsseldorf 1986

After having seen active service in the Second World War as Luftwaffe pilot above countries including Russia, Joseph Beuys chose art in 1945. From 1947 to 1951 he studied sculpture at the art academy of Dusseldorf. In the 'fifties he made thousands of drawings. Materials such as fat, felt, copper and wax and themes such as the deer and the hare are recurring elements in Beuys' work. These materials and themes were part of a personal symbolism that was derived from his history.
For Beuys, art and life were inextricably bound together. In his 'broad view of art', anybody could be considered an artist and every action a work of art. This definition of art lay at the foundation of each of Beuys' actions, installations, drawings, sculptures, discussions and political statements. His ultimate aim was the 'soziale Plastik': society as a work of art.Joseph Beuys studied sculpture at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts from 1947 to 1951. The starting point for his work is a mythical story about his rescue during the Second World War. The humanity he was shown by people from a completely different culture after his bomber plane was shot down is represented by organic forms, materials with ‘warm’ properties such as fat, felt and copper (flexibility, insulation, conduction) and natural motifs. His life and his art were inextricably linked and Beuys did everything to spread his ideas and his thousands of drawings and sculptures.

Beuys taught at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts from 1961 to 1972. According to his ‘extended definition of art’ everybody is an artist, and a simple act is also a work of art. He aimed to transform the hardened, rational world into a society where there is room for warmth, softness and irrationality. To this end, he established alternative versions of existing institutions, including a political party: Die Grünen (The Greens).

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