Mataré's ideas for educational reform continued....
Image: DerHexer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
It is clear that Mataré did not stifle the work and ideas of individual students even though he was a stickler for ensuring that students fulfilled the duties he placed on them. He was a strict task master who expected his students to attend every class and who would not suffer any lateness. However, the independence of a student was by no means a concern to him as is demonstrated by the fact that in 1953 he attended the first solo exhibition of Beuys - that of his early sculptures, drawings, and graphics – showing great interest even though he had not seen most of the work before since Beuys separated his classwork from his own private art productions. (van der Grinten) Mataré favoured materials like wood since, unlike working in bronze and stone, they did not require the use of preliminary sketches. Nevertheless, Mataré did succeed in familiarising his students with these materials even though he had limited experience with them. Perhaps, as stated by Cornelia Lauf In her thesis “Joseph Beuys: The Pedague as Persona”: “the sculptural concept of preserving a given material's original formal integrity was the most distinctive (although hardly novel) legacy of the Mataré workshop”.
image: Pausoak2018 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
It cannot be doubted that one of the greatest influences on Beuys was the work of Rudolf Steiner, founder of anthroposophy - nowadays described as a formal educational, therapeutic, and creative system seeking to use mainly natural means to optimize physical and mental health and well-being. Originating at the beginning of the twentieth century, anthroposophy is characterised by an expansion of perception and knowledge (spiritual realism) and the development of individual responsibility for one’s actions (ethical individualism). As ethical individualism it develops and promotes the human being’s capacity for free self-determination. This includes self-knowledge derived from the consequences of one’s actions. As spiritual realism it opens new dimensions of reality, in which spiritual understanding of the human being, gained through reflection and direct experience expands and modifies the physical and psychological view of human beings. Anthroposophy transforms science into practical life and practical life into spiritual culture. This interconnected transformation can be seen as an artistic process, and provide new approaches for artistic creativity. In this way, anthroposophical spiritual science develops through the unfolding of individual capacities in committed involvement with culture and civil society.(https://www.anthroposophie.ch/en/anthroposophy/topics/articles/what-is-anthroposophy/anthroposophical-spiritual-science.html)
Anyone who knows just a little about Beuys will sense how much of this is echoed in Beuys' own overall philosophy and practice.
Günther Mancke, a fellow student in Mataré's class, recalls: 'We were a class of nine people. Seven of us, with Beuys foremost, were intensely interested in anthroposophy” (“Joseph Beuys His Art and Rudolf Steiner” pg 8) . And Rudolf Bind in the same publication writes: “From the age of 20 Beuys and his childhood friend Rolf Rothenburg studied Rudolf Steiner. There followed the intensive study of anthroposophy over several years with Max Benirschke. We can see from the enormous Steiner library (more than 97 volumes were found in Beuys' estate) - books on which you could see he had worked energetically – and his membership from 1973 of the Anthroposophical Society (in the Achberg working group) that the zeal with which he studied Steiner was altogether consistent.” [ Prof Max Benirschke had been a personal student of Steiner and lived in Düsseldorf; Rolf Rothenburg died in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1943].
Beuys and Rainer Lynen, poet. and another fellow student (?)(Beuysnobiscum pg 330) had heated discussions about Steiner and other philosophical concepts. Beuys: 'I still clearly remember those polemical discussions. To mention one example which was important for me: we discussed, no argued, often about Rudolf Steiner. While Lynen, then and even today, is a strong opponent of Steiner, I had already been following his train of thought with great interest for many years”. ( quoted in Adriani et al, pg 23)
Beuys became Matare's master student from 1952-1954 during which time he had his first solo exhibition in the farmhouse of the Van der Grinten brothers in Kranenburg, whom he had first met in 1946 and who lived just a few miles from Kleve. He completed his studies in 1954 and moved to his own studio in Düsseldorf-Heerdt. During his time there he suffered a creative crisis, becoming increasingly withdrawn and eventually entering a very moody phase (almost certainly exacerbated by his then-fiancée ending their engagement) and leading to acute depression in 1956. Eventually he went to stay in the farmhouse of the Van der Grinten family, helping out on the farm from April 1957 until his recovery in August 1957. At the end of the year, Beuys moved back to Kleve to see his father who was very ill.
On a happier note he then received news that he had been awarded the commission for his design for a monument commemorating the fallen of both world wars (a monumental oak cross and gates for the old church tower of the parish church of St. Mauritius von Büderich). In order to be able to realize the commission for the monument he rented space in the then vacant Kleve Spa house which stood almost opposite from his parents house. He was officially registered as a tenant from 1 January 1958. ("Work-place and place of yearning: On Joseph Beuys, Cleves and his studio in the spa house" Valentina Vlašić). Vlašić, in this same article, notes that completion of the commission also required: 'the aid of the Krefeld carpenter’s workshop, Althoff, and Beuys’ cousin, Norbert Hülsermann, a blacksmith from Spellen'.
Images: Cliff Gorman
Beuys' gates and cross for Büderich and showing names of people who fell in WW1 & WWII (all carved by Beuys). On display at Kurhaus Kleve having been removed and cleaned & before re-hanging at Büderich. Images: Cliff Gorman
Later that year Beuys applied for a professorship at the Academy in Düsseldorf, but his application was not supported by Mataré and so he was unsuccessful.
In 1959 he married art teacher Eva-Maria Wurmbach and his cross and gates for the Büderich memorial were installed. Things were on the up.
In 1961 he and his wife moved into a studio apartment in Düsseldorf-Oberkassel and his second application to become Professor of Monumental Sculpture at the academy was apporoved.
Beuys' teaching at the Academy
This website is the personal initiative of Cliff Gorman. Its aim is to focus on the work and ideas of Joseph Beuys, and to be informative but not too academic.
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