About this artwork
Over a metre and a half in length, this drawing depicts a strange figure who is part animal, part human. The circular object on which the figure's beak rests is a piece of felt – the material with which Beuys is renowned for using extensively in his sculpture and actions. Felt is part of the artist's iconic story in which his life was saved after a plane crash when he was wrapped in layers of felt and fat. Although felt represents warmth and protection, its composition of compressed fibres or hair also refers to the human body.
- title: Tails
- accession number: AR00654
- artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
- gallery: In Storage
- object type: Work on paper
- date created: 1962
- measurements: 39.70 x 154.20 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
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.