Joseph Beuys

Trance in the House of the Shaman (1961)

About this artwork

Beuys adopted a shamanistic guise in many of his 'actions' from the 1960s onwards, a role anticipated in his earlier drawings. In this depiction of a shamanic ritual, the image of a standing male figure has been overlaid with that of a crouching female figure. Both figures are shown without their heads; however, the shape behind the man appears to be a head with an enlarged eye. This may represent the 'third eye' which allows perception on a higher, spiritual level. In shamanism, the head is regarded as sacred, being the means of communication.

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  • title: Trance in the House of the Shaman
  • accession number: AR00650
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • date created: 1961
  • measurements: 17.70 x 16.40 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.