Joseph Beuys

Electric Sphinx (1977)

About this artwork

Traditionally, a sphinx is a recumbent lion with a human head. Beuys's version is a strange combination of animal and human, yet despite the prominent ears, sharp teeth and trace of a muzzle, it still retains a human look. The lines which surround the figure are similar to magnetic field lines, and this magnetism would 'electrify' the sphinx. Although Beuys's work of the 1960s and 1970s is dominated by 'actions' and installations, drawing remained an important way for the artist to capture and develop his ideas. He regarded drawing as being at the basis of all his art.

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  • title: Electric Sphinx
  • accession number: AR00685
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • date created: 1977
  • measurements: 21.40 x 13.40 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.