joseph beuys (*may 12, 1921 in krefeld, † january 23, 1986 in düsseldorf) was an artist who used the media of drawing, sculpture, objects and installation as well as action and performance. his comprehensive opus comprises works in a more traditional artistic sense, but above all socio-political activities and happenings.
serving in the air force during the second world war, he began to study sculpture at the kunstakademie düsseldorf in 1946. one year later he transferred to the class of ewald mataré and became his master student in 1951. in 1961 beuys was appointed professor of sculpture at the kunstakademie düsseldorf. he was dismissed in 1972 mainly because of his political activities as co-founder of the deutsche studentenpartei (1967) and the organization for direct democracy (1970).
following his encounter with nam june paik and george maciunas in 1962, beuys devoted himself more and more to the fluxus movement and accomplished many of his actions in the 1960s. in terms of content, he therewith pursued an amelioration of the traditional concept of art to the point of a social and anthropological understanding of it. the materials beuys used – fat, felt, copper, and honey – reflect his concept of polar basic principles, for example heat and cold.