The German sculptor Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) is recognised as one of the most influential figures of the second half of the twentieth century. Artist, political and social activist (he was a founder of the Green Party), scientist and educator, Beuys’s philosophy proposed the healing power and social function of art, especially in the context of the period following World War Two but also as something in which all people can participate and benefit. His works are based on what he called ‘constellations of ideas’ and can incorporate any kind of material or object to represent these ideas according to their inherent properties or purposes.
From the 1950s onwards many of his works were made from or allude to a distinctive group of materials, in particular, felt, fat and copper for their insulating, conductive and protective, transmitting and transforming properties. Beuys produced a vast body of work that bridges art and science and includes what he called actions, lectures, drawing, print-making, sculpture and installation. His complex interlocking themes cover biology, archaeology, geology, anthropology, zoology, politics, mythology, history, religion, intuition, medicine, the sciences and communication, amongst others.