Joseph Beuys

Demonstration: Hand (1961)

About this artwork

Beuys often included the human figure in his drawings of the 1950s and early 1960s. However, this painting focuses solely on the hand, the most important tool of the artist. The title is ambiguous as it appears to present the hand as a symbol of defiance but it could also refer to the most basic way for humans to make their mark - the handprint. The hand on the left may be based around the dimensions of the artist's own, but the hand to the right has a more animalistic feel, with the long fingers like claws.

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  • title: Demonstration: Hand
  • accession number: AR00648
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: On Loan
  • object type: Work on paper
  • subject: Self-portrait
  • date created: 1961
  • measurements: 22.00 x 22.00 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.