Joseph Beuys

Naturgeschichte [Natural History] (1964-1982)

About this artwork

The title given to this object relates it to Max Ernst's 'Histoire Naturelle' (Natural History) portfolio, published in 1926. Ernst used the technique of frottage to create fantastical drawings based on rubbings taken from woodgrain. Beuys has gone directly to the source of Ernst's images by presenting a piece of wood which is beautifully textured and neatly cut into a square. This work shows that Ernst's interest in the potential of the natural world was shared by Beuys. The two German artists also share a 'rebirth' myth, as Ernst claimed to have 'died' at the start of the First World War and been resuscitated in 1918.

see media
  • title: Naturgeschichte [Natural History]
  • accession number: AR00666
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • date created: 1964-1982
  • measurements: 33.30 x 36.60 x 3.50 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.