Beuys, Joseph

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Beuys, Joseph Gender: M
born on 12 May 1921 at 23:30 (= 11:30 PM )
Place Krefeld, Germany, 51n20, 6e34
Timezone GST h1e (is daylight saving time)
Data source
BC/BR in hand
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Treindl
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_taucol.18.gif 21°37' s_mo.18.gif s_cancol.18.gif 28°56 Asc.s_capcol.18.gif 01°17'

Joseph Beuys
photo: Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, license gfdl


German artist, theorist and teacher who was highly influential in international contemporary art in the latter half of the 20th century. He is a founder of the art movement known as Fluxus, and a practitioner and exemplar of happenings, and performance art. He adopted media and techniques including paint, sculpture, graphic art and installation.

His work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy; it culminates in his "extended definition of art" and the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk, for which he claimed a creative, participatory role in shaping society and politics. His career was characterized by open public debates on a very wide range of subjects including political, environmental, social and long term cultural trends. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century.

In 1936 Beuys was a member of the Hitler Youth; the organization comprised a large majority of German children and adolescents at that time and later that year membership became compulsory. He participated in the Nuremberg rally in September 1936, when he was 15 years old. In 1941, Beuys volunteered for the Luftwaffe. In 1942, Beuys was stationed in the Crimea and was a member of various combat bomber units. From 1943 on he was deployed as rear-gunner in the Ju 87 "Stuka" dive-bomber. Drawings and sketches from that time have been preserved and already show his characteristic style. On 16 March 1944, Beuys's plane crashed on the Crimean Front close to Znamianka, then Freiberg Krasnohvardiiske Raion. From this incident, Beuys fashioned the myth that he was rescued from the crash by nomadic Tatar tribesmen, who had wrapped his broken body in animal fat and felt and nursed him back to health. Records state that Beuys was conscious, recovered by a German search commando, and there were no Tatars in the village at that time. Beuys was brought to a military hospital where he stayed for three weeks from 17 March to 7 April. It is consistent with Beuys' work that his biography would have been subject to his own reinterpretation; this particular story has served as a powerful myth of origins for Beuys's artistic identity, as well as providing an initial interpretive key to his use of unconventional materials, amongst which felt and fat were central. Despite prior injuries, he was deployed to the Western Front in August 1944, into a poorly equipped and trained paratrooper unit. He received the German Wound Badge in gold for being wounded in action more than five times. On the day after the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945, Beuys was taken prisoner in Cuxhaven and brought to a British internment camp from which he was released 5 August of that year.

After his return to Kleve, Beuys met the local sculptor Walter Brüx and painter Hanns Lamers, who encouraged him to take up art as a full-time career. He joined the Kleve Artists Association that had been established by Brüx and Lamers. On 1 April 1946, Beuys enrolled in the "Monumental Sculpture" program at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts. Beuys finished his education in 1953, graduating as master student from Mataré's class, 32 years old at that time. He had a modest income from a number of crafts-oriented commissions: a gravestone and several pieces of furniture. Throughout the 1950s, Beuys struggled with a dire financial situation and with the trauma of his wartime experiences. His output consisted mainly of drawings, which he produced in the thousands, but he also produced some sculptures. Through his drawing practice, Beuys explored a range of unconventional materials and developed his artistic agenda, exploring metaphorical and symbolic connections between natural phenomena and philosophical systems. Often difficult to interpret in themselves, these drawings constitute a speculative, contingent and rather hermetic exploration of the material world and how that world might be connected to the realm of myth and philosophy. In 1974, 327 drawings, the majority of which were made during the late 1940s and 1950s, were collected into a group entitled The Secret Block for a Secret Person in Ireland (a reference to Joyce), and exhibited in Oxford, Edinburgh, Dublin and Belfast.

In 1956, artistic self-doubt and material impoverishment led to a physical and psychological crisis, and Beuys entered a period of serious depression. He recovered at the house of his most important early patrons, the van der Grinten brothers, in Kranenburg. In 1958, Beuys participated in an international competition for an Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial, but his proposal did not win and his design was never realised. Also in 1958, Beuys began a cycle of drawings related to Joyce's Ulysses. Completed in ca. 1961, the six exercise books of drawings would constitute, Beuys declared, an extension of Joyce's seminal novel. On 19 September 1959 Beuys married Eva Wurmbach. They had two children together, Wenzel (born 22 December 1961) and Jessyka (born 16 November 1964).

In 1961, Beuys was appointed professor of 'monumental sculpture' at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. What served to launch Beuys into the public consciousness was that which transpired following his performance at the Technical College Aachen in 1964. As part of a festival of new art coinciding with the 20th anniversary of an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, Beuys created a performance or Aktion. The performance was interrupted by a group of students, one of whom attacked Beuys, punching him in the face. A photograph of the artist, nose bloodied and arm raised, was circulated in the media.

Beuys manifested his social philosophical ideas in abolishing entry requirements to his Düsseldorf class. Throughout the late 1960s this renegade policy caused great institutional friction, which came to a head in October 1972 when Beuys was dismissed from his post. That year he found 142 applicants who had not been accepted that he wished to enroll under his teaching. 16 of them agreed and he then occupied the offices of the academy to gain a hearing about their admission. They were admitted by the school, but the relationship between Beuys and the school were irreconcilable.[18] The dismissal, which Beuys refused to accept, produced a wave of protests from students, artists and critics. Although now bereft of an institutional position, Beuys continued an intense schedule of public lectures and discussions, as well as becoming increasingly active in German politics. Despite this dismissal, the walkway on the academy's side of the Rhine bears Beuys as its namesake. Later in life, Beuys became a visiting professor at various institutions (1980–1985).

Beuys had adopted shamanism not only as the presentation mode of his art but also in his own life. Although the artist as a shaman has been a trend in modern art (Picasso, Gauguin), Beuys is unusual in that respect as he integrated "his art and his life into the shaman role."

The only major retrospective of Beuys work to be organised in Beuys's lifetime opened at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1979. The exhibition has been described as a "lightning rod for American criticism," eliciting as it did some powerful and polemical responses.

Beuys died of heart failure on 23 January 1986, in Düsseldorf, following a fungal lung infection with Pneumocystis jirovecii, frequently found as opportunistic disease in HIV cases.

Link to Wikipedia biography


  • Social : Joined group April 1941 (volunteered for German Luftwaffe)
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  • Health : Accident (Non-fatal) 16 March 1944 (plane crash in WW II in Russia)
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  • Social : Institutionalized - prison, hospital 8 May 1945 (prisoner of war)
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  • Social : Deinstitutionalized - prison, hospital 5 August 1945 (released from POW camp)
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  • Social : Begin a program of study 1 April 1946 (enrolled as art student)
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  • Social : End a program of study 1953 (completed studies)
  • Relationship : Marriage 19 September 1959 (with Eva Wurmbach)
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  • Work : New Career 1 November 1961 (professor at art academy)
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  • Family : Change in family responsibilities 22 December 1961 (birth of son Wenzel)
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  • Family : Change in family responsibilities 16 November 1964 (birth of daughter Jessyka)
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  • Death by Disease 23 January 1986 (heart failure, age 64)
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Source Notes

Hans Peter Riegel in "Beuys - die Biographie", Zürich 2013: "Die Geburtsurkunde, der zufolge Joseph Jakob Beuys auf dem Standesamt von Krefeld die Geburt seines Sohns Joseph Heinrich anzeigte, wies 23.30 Uhr als Geburtszeit aus." He sent a copy of the document to ADB.

Time Zone is GST (Greenwich Summer Time) equivalent to CET (Central European Time). Krefeld was under French occupation at that time, and GMT was the official time zone and observed on the west side of the Rhine. French DST applied.


  • Vocation : Art : Fine art artist
  • Vocation : Military : Combat (German air force gunner)
  • Notable : Famous : Historic figure