Born: 1921; Krefeld, Germany
Died: 1986; Düsseldorf, Germany
Field: painting, art theory, performance, installation
School or Group: Fluxus
Joseph Beuys was a German sculptor, painter, installation artist, art theorist and art pedagogue, and is considered one of the most influential European performance artists. In his early school years, he was considered to have a natural talent for drawing, and he visited the sculpting studio of Achilles Moortgat many times. His later childhood was spent in the era of the Nazi Third Reich. When he was 15 years old, he was a member of the Hitler Youth, and participated in the Nuremburg rally. In 1941, he volunteered for the German Luftwaffe, first acting as an aircraft radio operator, and later part of various bombing missions in the Crimea. In 1944, Beuy’s plane was shot down on the Crimean Front. Beuys was the only person to survive the crash, and later claimed to have been rescued by Tartar tribesmen, who covered him with animal fat and felt to keep him warm and nursed him back to health. Eyewitness accounts, however, claim that although Beuys was the only one to survive the crash, there were no Tartar tribesmen. He was instead rescued by a German search commando, and taken to a military hospital where he stayed for three weeks. He was redeployed later the same year, and held as a prisoner of war after the German surrender in 1945.