Hirsch. 1956. Watercolor. Signed and dated upper right. On firm wove paper. 19 x 28 cm (7.4 x 11 in), size of sheet.
Very rare deer watercolor from the 1950s. We are grateful to Eva Beuys for her kind support in cataloging this lot.
Beuys' early and rare watercolor work shows the most important and, along with the bee, emblematic animal of his oeuvre, the deer. The earliest documented deer figuration dates back to 1948. From then Beuys continues to pursue this theme until the end of his creative work. Beuys' deer holds a male identity and symbolizes death as well as resurrection after death, which becomes more and more evident in the 1950s. The artist expands the Christian symbolism of the deer “Einsamkeit, Seele und Reinheit” (loneliness, soul and purity) and the symbol of Christ, who fights against the evil in the deer's body, through Celtic content, - the deer as sun god who promises fertility and virility (cit. in Ariane Grigoteit, Joseph Beuys, Wasserfarbe auf Papier, 1936-1984/85, Frankfurter Fundamente der Kunstgeschichte, vol. X, Frankfurt a.M. 1993, p. 57, note154). The deer receives another conceptual meaning in the years 1956/57 when he transforms into a symbol of an animal tormented by human failure: “This is linked to a certain period in my life when I was wishing to die” (translated quote from Joseph Beuys, op.cit, p. 54).