* 1921 Krefeld
† 1986 Düsseldorf
The German artist Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld on May 12, 1921. He serves in World War II as a radio operator in the airforce. His airplane crashes over the Crimea in 1944, Beuys is severely wounded and suffers a trauma. However, he has to serve again on the Western front shortly before the end of the war. In August 1945 Beuys returns to his parents in Kleve-Neurindern.
Beuys makes his first drawings during the war. In Kleve he gets into contact with the artist group around Hanns Lamers. In 1946 he joins the "Klever Künstlerbund" (Kleve Artist Association), and participates in exhibitions with drawings and watercolors.
From 1947 to 1952 he studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, and is master student under Ewald Mataré from 1952 to 1954. As of 1961 he teaches at the Düsseldorf Art Academy and has a decisive impact on his students and the teaching in general. In Beuys' opinion everyone should have access to the studies of art and an own artistic creation, which is why he accepts all rejected students in his class and also employs students for administrative tasks. Beuys is reprimanded and then laid off without previous notice, which leads to a scandal and world-wide protests. The Federal Labor Court successfully settles the case in 1980, Joseph Beuys can keep his studio in "Raum 3" (Room 3) in the academy. He founds the "Freie internationale Hochschule für Kreativität und interdisziplinäre Forschung e.V." (Free and International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research) together with Klaus Staeck, Georg Meistermann and Willi Bongard.
Joseph Beuys participates in many artistic experimental events, such as happenings and performances, and makes object art, mixed media art and video works etc. In 1964 he participates in the "documenta" III in Kassel, up until his death he shows works in every documenta exhibition. He develops a private mythology in his art, using materials such as felt, fat and honey to which he ascribes meaning in order to deal with memories from the war. Joseph Beuys aims at basic questions of sense. Beuys attains to replace politics with aesthetics, it is his goal to abolish the separation of art and life as well as art and science, in doing so he coins the slogan of the advanced concept of art and the social sculpture, with which he means art's contribution to society and its potential powers to change society.
Joseph Beuys is regarded as one of the most important internationally acknowledged German post war artists. He dies in his studio in Düsseldorf on January 23, 1986.