Joseph Beuys

Aktricen [Actresses] (1958)

About this artwork

Beuys's use of the term 'actresses' in his drawings of women makes reference to the idea of performance, in the same way as the artist created the persona of a shaman for himself. Indeed, in some of his performances ('actions') Beuys assumed the role of the female principle. This drawing is dominated by three upright female figures who stride confidently across the image, with the body of a naked woman, drawn in pencil, forming a backdrop. Although there are four figures on the page, each one is isolated from the others and not individualised in any way – a typical feature of Beuys's depictions of women in the 1950s.

see media
  • title: Aktricen [Actresses]
  • accession number: AR00105
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Watercolour
  • date created: 1958
  • measurements: 20.70 x 29.00 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.