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Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) Germany

Joseph Beuys was born in 1921 in Krefeld, Germany. Growing up, he was an only child in a deeply religious family. In 1940, he joined the military and fought in the war. Events from the war haunted him, which is often reflected in his artwork. Beuys increasingly used materials like fat, honey, blood and felt in his sculptures. This choice of materials may be due to the fact that he was in an accident in the war, and when he was rescued, his body was rubbed with fat and wrapped up in a felt blanket to help him stay warm. While the veracity of this tale is questionable, it came to reflect his in many ways mythical life. He molds stories and memories in his artwork.
Beuys later studied sculpture at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts. He graduated in 1952 and the next year, he increasingly sharpened his focus on drawing. He created over one thousand works in that period. At the age of 40, he was appointed professor of monumental sculpture at the same school where he had studied. In 1969, he stated that “to be a teacher is my greatest work of art”. Beuys dedicated himself increasingly to performance art: through conversations with the public, he created “social sculptures”, which were a union of idealistic ideas and aesthetic practice. He wanted to create a genuinely democratic society through lectures on art and politics. Because dialogue changed the content, the audience participated in the creation process and the results were jointly created. The actual moment of creation was crucial to Beuys’ art, as that particular process can never be repeated.
Beuys sought to give art a different role, one in which it was equal to capital. That being said, he did not want art to seen as objects or products. Rather, he wanted to give art a more transformational role, with existential significance for both the individual and for society at large. This view of art came from his experiences in World War II. As a sculptor, Beuys wanted to demonstrate and reveal certain principles sculpturally, in which he conveyed specific content directly through sculptural design. This led him to social communication and a major interest in education and how to convey thoughts and ideas.
Beuys died in Düsseldorf in 1986, but many of his thoughts and ideas live on through his students.

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