Joseph Beuys

Whale Trap (1966)

About this artwork

Beuys's depictions of sea creatures reflect his interest in tribal magic and beliefs. The whale is associated with religion in several cultures, as well as being referred to in the Bible, most notably in the story of Jonah and the whale. Here, three whales circle around a shape which presumably represents a trap. The artist often used sound in his performed 'actions' and this painting also has an aspect of movement and sound. The whales are shown producing water from their blow holes, and have their mouths open as if communicating with whale song.

see media
  • title: Whale Trap
  • accession number: AR00672
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • date created: 1966
  • measurements: 24.00 x 37.20 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
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.