Joseph Beuys - Sonnenkreuz
Bronze with golden-brown patina. 36.2 x 19.8 x 5 cm. One of few casts which differs slightly in chasing, finishing, and patina. - Traces of studio.
With “Sonnenkreuz”, one of Joseph Beuys' earliest artistic works, the young artist succeeds in creating a work of unparalleled expressiveness. It is still under the stylistic influence of his teacher Ewald Mataré, but illustrates already the artistically free, independent conception with which Beuys had already made a name for himself as an artist in these years. He uses conventional methods of representation as a base from which to create something new, complexly thought out, that bursts classical iconography. Up until 1952, Beuys worked intensively with Christian themes, he made numerous crosses as well as representations of the Pietà and baptismal fonts. The unorthodox compositions meant however that none of these pieces found their way into a church setting.
The cross beams themselves are not an integral element of the “Sonnenkreuz”; the viewer automatically inserts them at the sight of the characteristic posture of the Crucified. His body is forced into a lineal zigzag form, the body bent several times, and the overly long arms are reminiscent of the intense illustration of Christ's suffering in Gothic crucifixes.
From the beginning, Beuys integrates archaic motifs into his works. Thus, Christ of the “Sonnenkreuz” is crowned with lush vine leaves and grapes instead of thorns, whilst a sun wheel radiates above him. The spiritual motif of the sun wheel or the sun disc is often found in his early work. Ancient sun cults all over the world worshipped the sun as a source of life, and together with the crucifixion of Christ, can be interpreted as a symbol of rebirth. The crown of grapes on the other hand connects Christ with ancient deities such as Dionysus and Apollo.
Acquired directly from the artist in 1950/51; private possession, Baden-Wuerttemberg
Friedhelm Mennekes (ed.), Franz Joseph van der Grinten zu Joseph Beuys, Cologne 1993, p.51 (different cast)
Wouter Kotte, Ursula Mildner, Das Kreuz als Universalzeichen bei Joseph Beuys, Ein Requiem, Stuttgart 1986, p.24ff., with illus. 3, p.60 (different cast)
Franz Joseph van der Grinten, Friedhelm Mennekes, Menschenbild - Christusbild, Auseinandersetzung mit einem Thema der Gegenwartskunst, Stuttgart 1984, illus. p.121 (different cast)
Düsseldorf 1991/92 (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen), Joseph Beuys. Natur Materie Form, cat.no.39 with colour illus. (different cast)
Kleve 1991 (Städtisches Museum Haus Koekkoek), Joseph Beuys, cat.no.75, p.65 with colour illus. (different cast)
Krefeld 1991 (Kaiser Wilhelm Museum), Joseph Beuys, Plastische Arbeiten 1947-1985, cat.no.1 p.24ff., with illus. (different cast)
Berlin 1988 (Martin-Gropius-Bau), Joseph Beuys. Skulpturen und Objekte, cat.no.1, with colour illus. p.113 (different cast)
Aachen/Ratingen 1985/86 (Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum/Museumsverein), Kreuz + Zeichen, Religiöse Grundlagen im Werk von Joseph Beuys,cat.no.1, illus.14 (different cast)