Joseph Beuys

The Difficulty of Producing an Egg (1968)

About this artwork

In this drawing we see a network of bird, female and fish forms. Centred at the top of the composition is the large head of a swan, a bird which Beuys had been fascinated with since his childhood; a sculpture of a large golden swan sat on top of the tower of Schwanenburg castle (Swan Castle) in his home town of Cleves and was visible from his bedroom window when he was growing up. The title of this work and the combination of female and stork elements also recalls Beuys’s interest in the traumas associated with reproduction, pregnancy and birth, which are the subject of many of his drawings. The informal, linear style of this drawing is close to handwriting and allowed Beuys to capture his ideas with a raw immediacy. He said, “I put forms of language on paper… in order to stimulate thought.”

see media
  • title: The Difficulty of Producing an Egg
  • accession number: AL00199
  • artist: Joseph BeuysGerman (1921 - 1986)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • medium: Embossed paper in frame
  • date created: 1968
  • measurements: 25.40 x 26.00 cm
  • credit line: ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Lent by Anthony d'Offay 2010
  • copyright: © DACS 2016.
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.