Joseph Beuys

Dwarf (Self-Portrait) (1965)

About this artwork

Early in his life Beuys had been deeply influenced by the work of Richard Wagner, although he distanced himself from his antisemiticism and ultra-nationalism. The dwarf, Alberich, who steals the gold from the Rhine Maidens, fashions a ring from it but loses it to the Gods, appears in several of Beuys's works, including a play written in 1963. In this drawing the distinctive hat confirms the figure's identity, in what is an unpretentious and humorous self-portrait. In one hand the man holds a twig or root, referring to his interest in nature. The action of digging suggests the artist's scientific, enquiring mind and his desire to explore the world around him. Like the figure shown here, Beuys loved to use humble and natural materials and was not afraid to work hard or get his hands dirty.

see more information see media
  • title: Dwarf (Self-Portrait)
  • accession number: AR00122
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1965
  • measurements: 29.60 x 20.90 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.