Joseph Beuys

Hexen Feuer Speiend [Witches Spitting Fire] (1959)

About this artwork

Witches are often seen in German art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The interest in witches at that time was linked to the larger issue of society's attempt to understand women's bodies and their fertility, a subject which still concerns the artist in this 1959 drawing. Although these images from traditional German art would have been known to Beuys, his presentation of women as witches also refers to his own particular fascination with ancient and mysterious characters. Shown against a background suggestive of flames, Beuys's depiction of these two figures as fearsome and powerful shows his respect for a world where primitive, spiritual powers take precedent.

see media
  • title: Hexen Feuer Speiend [Witches Spitting Fire]
  • accession number: AR00109
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • subject: Magic
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1959
  • measurements: 20.70 x 29.70 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.