Artist
Joseph Beuys
German visual artist

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Joseph Beuys
German visual artist
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Birth Date

May 12, 1921

Death Date

January 23, 1986

svdgrift's picture

Contributor

Joseph was either a unicorn or a nazi, but he sure loved his felt and fat.

Joseph Beuys was born in Kleve, a city in Germany very close to the Dutch border. My family is from Kleve so that means we’re practically family right? He is well known for being a notorious liar, for his crazy performances and for using odd materials in his installations.

As a teenager, Joseph was interested in Nordic history and mythology, natural sciences and art. Even though he visited the studio of the Flemish painter and sculptor Achilles Moortgat numerous times, he eventually chose a career in medicine. But then Adolf Hitler decided to be the biggest asshole and WW2 began. In 1940, Joseph decided to join the military voluntarily, in order to avoid the draft. They trained him to be an aircraft radio operator and a combat pilot. During these years in the army, he was seriously wounded numerous times.

This is where the myth of Beuys starts. Story goes he once got shot down somewhere in the Crimea, a peninsula between Ukraine and Russia. Luckily the Tatars found him. They wrapped him up in fat and felt, like a tartar sandwich. It warmed his body and saved his life. Sounds too good to be true...and it is. Records state that he was found by a German search commando, no Tatars to be seen. Nevertheless, it's an awesome story and it was the inspiration for many awesome artworks. Another thing we do know for sure is at the end of the war the Brits held him as a prisoner-of-war. In 1945 Hitler and his snot mop got defeated and Joseph was eventually allowed to return to Kleve.

After the war he was like “Eff that career in medicine!”. Who needs hospitals when felt and fat cure you as well? He enrolled in the Düsseldorf Academy of Art instead to study sculpture. Felt, fat and medicine played a big role through out his artistic career. And hares, dead hares. During one of his iconic performances he “explained pictures to a dead hare," covered in honey and gold. Gross, but pretty awesome.

A total wacko, Joseph has a lot of haters. Some call him infantile and messianic. Some accuse him of disavowing his traumatic past. And last, but certainly not least, some say that Joseph had more connections to the Nazis than just serving in the war. It might be true that he was a dedicated follower of occultist and racist ideas and hung out with quite a few former Nazis. But then again, none of this has been confirmed....the myth continues.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Joseph Beuys

Joseph Beuys (/bɔɪs/ BOYSS, German: [ˈjoːzɛf ˈbɔʏs]; 12 May 1921 – 23 January 1986) was a German Fluxus, happening, and performance artist as well as a painter, sculptor, medallist, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist, and pedagogue.

His extensive 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.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Joseph Beuys.