Joseph Beuys (German pronunciation: [ˈjoːzɛf ˈbɔʏs]; May 12, 1921 – January 23, 1986), was a German performance artist, sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art. His extensive work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy; it culminates in his "extended definition of art" and the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk, for which he claimed a creative, participatory role in shaping society and politics. His career was characterized by passionate, even acrimonious public debate, but he is now regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Childhood and early life in the Third Reich (1921-1941)Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld, the son of the merchant Josef Jakob Beuys (1888–1958) and Johanna Maria Margarete Beuys (born Hülsermann, 1889–1974). The parents had moved from Geldern to Krefeld in 1910, and Beuys was born there on May 12, 1921. In autumn of that year the family moved to Kleve, an industrial town in the Lower Rhine region of Germany, close to the Dutch border. There, Joseph attended primary school (Katholische Volksschule) and secondary/high- school (Staatliches Gymnasium Cleve, now the Freiherr-vom-Stein-Gymnasium). His teachers considered him to have a talent for drawing; he also took piano- and cello lessons. On several occasions he visited the studio of the Flemish painter and sculptor Achilles Moortgat. Other interests of note include Nordic history and mythology and especially the natural sciences. According to his own account, when the Nazi Party staged their book-burning in Kleve on May 19, 1933 in the courtyard of his school, he salvaged the book Systema Naturae by Carl Linnaeus "...from that large, flaming pile". As of 1936, Beuys' membership in the Hitler Youth is documented; the organization comprised a large majority of German children and adolescents at that time and later that year membership became compulsory. He participated in the Nuremberg rally in September 1936, when he was 15 years old. From an early age, Beuys displayed a keen interest in the natural sciences and had considered a career in medical studies, but in his last years of school - possibly influenced by pictures of Wilhelm Lehmbruck's sculptures - he had decided to become a sculptor himself. Around 1939 he worked for a circus on the side, postering and taking care of animals for about a year. He graduated from school in the spring of 1941 with his Abitur.