Joseph Beuys

Actress (1956)

About this artwork

Joseph Beuys's drawings often show women as actresses or witches. This is not intended to be derogatory, but rather refers to women taking on a role and performing, much like the artist's own adoption of the guise of a shaman. The torn paper of this drawing suggests that it has been damaged, but Beuys would draw on anything that came to hand when he had an idea, which gives this work a sense of immediacy. The exclusion of the woman's head would also have been done deliberately. In concentrating on the body, Beuys has depicted a curvy figure, with touches of pink to suggest the warmth of the flesh.

see media
  • title: Actress
  • accession number: AR00637
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Watercolour
  • date created: 1956
  • measurements: 25.20 x 20.00 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.