Joseph Beuys

The Shaman's Two Bags (1977)

About this artwork

The presence of the shaman is felt in this drawing, not through the man himself being shown but by his belongings being featured. Beuys felt a deep connection with the figure of the shaman, who appears in tribal cultures across the world. The shape of the bag on the left looks as if a pair of antlers is growing from the top, recalling the artist's fascination with the stag. The hook shape at the side looks like the top of the staff used by a shepherd or shaman. On the bag on the right, a shape like a tuning fork or divining stick emerges from the side of the bag.

see media
  • title: The Shaman's Two Bags
  • accession number: AR00129
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1977
  • measurements: 76.00 x 56.40 cm; support (right): 74.50 x 55.90 mm)
  • 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.