In January 1978 photographer Gerd Ludwig and journalist Peter Sager went on a journey to the Lower Rhine with Joseph Beuys. It led them back to Beuys’ origins, back to his roots, into the city of Kleve and its surroundings in which it all began.
Gerd Ludwig’s photographs magnificently captured Joseph Beuys as he was reconnecting with his past. Some of the photos he produced were published in the German weekly “Zeit-Magazin” in April 1978, accompanied by an essay written by Peter Sager. However, a corpus of his work remained unpublished and unseen by the public up to this day.
To Beuys, it was a “look back into the landscape,” as Sager wrote. He went trough Kleve’s Lower Rhine landscape with its deep horizons and soaring skies. “This is his landscape, very simple and with depth, sparse, like his works” – with hares, poplar trees and swans. Beuys visited the places of his childhood and youth, like his former school in Kleve, now called “Freiherr-vom-Stein Gymnasium”. He engaged its students in a discussion about art, as well as the “meaning of life,” as Sager says. Schloss Gnadenthal was the last stop of his journey. It is the place where Anacharsis Cloots, who was nicknamed “orator of mankind” and whose work served as an important inspiration for Beuys, was born in 1755. Symbolically, in one of the photographs Beuys is holding Cloots’ biography in his own hands.