der Atem [the Breathless] (1966)
About this artwork
Organic curves dominate this work. In the lower part, Beuys has used liquid fat to create shapes which have been echoed in the curved lines of the pencil drawing above. The materials Beuys used were always selected for their particular significance to the artist. Fat represented fuel and nurturing, but also was associated with producing warm, chaotic energy. To complement this, copper, as an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, can transmit this energy. The title of this work translates as 'Breath'.
- title: der Atem [the Breathless]
- accession number: AR00675
- artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
- gallery: In Storage
- object type: Work on paper
- date created: 1966
- measurements: 51.40 x 41.10 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.