Joseph Beuys

Young Blacksmith with his Work (1971)

About this artwork

The figure in this drawing wears the same trilby hat as the artist, showing that Beuys is casting himself as the blacksmith, with the power to work metal, changing its form from solid to liquid using fire. The figure of the blacksmith had been of interest to Beuys since his childhood. At the age of eight he had played games based on the legend of Genghis Khan, and later explained that a rough translation of Genghis Khan was 'John Smith', meaning he would have been a blacksmith. In this role, working with fire to create tools and objects from metal, Beuys compared Khan to a shaman, another figure who appears in the artist's work.

see media
  • title: Young Blacksmith with his Work
  • accession number: AR00681
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • date created: 1971
  • measurements: 21.40 x 26.80 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.