Joseph Beuys

2 Rote Fische [Two Red Fish] (1954)

About this artwork

This painting echoes the artist's sculptural work of the same period. It was made while Beuys was creating a series of reliefs of animals, including different fish and sea creatures, from slate. The use of colour in Beuys's work is always significant as he used it like a substance or material, meaning that colour became particularly important and representative. The bright red suggests blood, and, in turn, life. The symbol of the fish has also been used to represent life by several different religious groups. Beuys once expressed the opinion that fish represent continuity, as, unlike man, they cannot escape their fixed point in evolution.

see media
  • title: 2 Rote Fische [Two Red Fish]
  • accession number: AR00633
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Watercolour
  • date created: 1954
  • measurements: 39.90 x 46.60 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008
  • copyright: © DACS 2016.
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve
This artwork is part of Artist Rooms

Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys

German artist Beuys believed that art was integral to everyday life. His own art was shaped by an experience early in his life. As a Luftwaffe pilot during the war, Beuys was shot down over the Crimea and was saved by nomadic Tartars. Barely alive, he was wrapped in felt and fat which preserved his body heat, and taken to safety on sledges pulled by dogs. This incident, and these particular elements, informed much of his art, which has a redemptive, mystical and ritualistic character. Central to his work were his 'Actions', which involved teaching, audience discussion and performance. The recurrent themes were social and political. Associated with the ecological movement - he was a founder member of the Green Party - he also had a strong influence on German politics.