Joseph Beuys

Hirschdenkmal [Monument to the Stag] (1959)

About this artwork

Although the imagery of this drawing is difficult to decipher, the stag is an animal which held a particular mystical power for Beuys. The artist would refer to himself as the 'stag leader'. With his work steeped in Germanic tradition and legend, Beuys's use of the stag references the animal as the traditional emblem of the Northern forest, as well as its role as a spirit guide in Celtic mythology and the crucified Christ in Christianity. The stag is a symbol of masculine power, but also has a feminine aspect in the annual shedding of its antlers, symbolising fertility.

see media
  • title: Hirschdenkmal [Monument to the Stag]
  • accession number: AR00111
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1959
  • measurements: 42.90 x 39.50 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.