From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Otto Dix (December 2, 1891 - July 25, 1969) was a German painter and printmaker. Noted for his ruthless depictions of Weimar society and of the brutality of war, he is one of the most important artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). His most famous painting include Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden and Lustmord.
Early life and education
Otto Dix was born in Untermhaus, Germany, now a part of the city of Gera. The eldest son of Franz and Louise Dix, an iron foundry worker and a seamstress who had written poetry in her youth, he was exposed to art from an early age. The hours he spent in the studio of his cousin, Fritz Amann, who was a painter, were decisive in forming young Otto's ambition to be an artist; he received additional encouragement from his primary school teacher. Between 1906 and 1910, he served an apprenticeship with painter Carl Senff, and began painting his first landscapes. In 1910, he entered the Kunstgewerbeschule in Dresden (Academy of Applied Arts), where Richard Guhr was among his teachers.
World War I service
When the First World War erupted, Dix enthusiastically volunteered for the German Army. He was assigned to a field artillery regiment in Dresden. In the fall of 1915 he was assigned as a non-commissioned officer of a machine-gun unit in the Western front and took part of the Battle of the Somme. In November 1917, his unit was transferred to the Eastern front until the end of hostilities with Russia, and in February 1918 he was stationed in Flanders. In August of that year he was wounded in the neck, and shortly after he took pilot training lessons. He was discharged of service in December 1918. Back in the western front, he fought in the German Spring offensive. He earned the Iron Cross (second class) and reached the rank of vice-sergeant-major.
Dix was profoundly affected by the sights of the war,and would later describe a recurring nightmare in which he crawled through destroyed houses. He represented his traumatic experiences in many subsequent works, including a portfolio of fifty etchings called Der Krieg, published in 1924.
At the end of 1918 Dix returned to Gera, but the next year he moved to Dresden, where he studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste. He became a founder of the Dresden Secession group in 1919, during a period when his work was passing through an expressionist phase. In 1920 he met George Grosz and, influenced by Dada, began incorporating collage elements into his works, some of which he exhibited in the first Dada Fair in Berlin. He also participated in the German Expressionists exhibition in Darmstadt that year.
In 1924 he joined the Berlin Secession; by this time he was developing an increasingly realistic style of painting that used thin glazes of oil paint over a tempera underpainting, in the manner of the old masters. His 1923 painting The Trench, which depicted dismembered and decomposed bodies of soldiers after a battle caused such a furor, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum hid the painting behind a curtain. In 1925 the then-mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, cancelled the purchase of the painting and forced the director of the museum to resign.
Dix was a contributor to the Neue Sachlichkeit exhibition in Mannheim in 1925, which featured works by George Grosz, Max Beckmann, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Karl Hubbuch, Rudolf Schlichter, Georg Scholz and many others. Dix's work, like that of Grosz—his friend and fellow veteran—was extremely critical of contemporary German society and often dwelled on the act of Lustmord, or sexual murder. He drew attention to the bleaker side of life, unsparingly depicting prostitution, violence, old age and death.
Among his most famous paintings are the triptych Metropolis (1928), a scornful portrayal of depraved actions of Germany's Weimar Republic, where nonstop revelry was a way to deal with the wartime defeat and financial catastrophe, and the startling Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden (1926). His depictions of legless and disfigured veterans—a common sight on Berlin's streets in the 1920s—unveil the ugly side of war and illustrate their forgotten status within contemporary German society, a concept also developed in Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front.
World War II and the Nazis
When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they regarded Dix as a degenerate artist and had him sacked from his post as an art teacher at the Dresden Academy. He later moved to Lake Constance in the south west of Germany. Dix's paintings The Trench and War cripples were exhibited in the state-sponsored Munich 1937 exhibition of degenerate art, Entartete Kunst. They were later burned.
Dix, like all other practicing artists, was forced to join the Nazi government's Reich Chamber of Fine Arts (Reichskammer der bildenden Kuenste), a subdivision of Goebbels' Cultural Ministry (Reichskulturkammer). Membership was mandatory for all artists in the Reich. Dix had to promise to paint only inoffensive landscapes. He still painted an occasional allegorical painting that criticized Nazi ideals.
In 1939 he was arrested on a trumped-up charge of being involved in a plot against Hitler (see Georg Elser) but was later released.
Later life and death
List of works
- Venus with Gloves
- At the Mirror (1921)
- Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden
- Newborn Baby on Hands (1927)
- Halbakt (Half Length Nude)
- Skin Graft (Transplantation)
- 1912 – Selbstbildnis mit Hut. Museum Gunzenhauser
- 1912 – Selbstportrait mit Nelke. Detroit Institute of Arts
- 1918 – Selbstbildnis als Soldat. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1914 – Selbstbildnis mit Artillerie-Helm. Rückseite von Selbstbildnis als Soldat. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1915 – Selbstbildnis als Mars. Städtische Kunstsammlung Freital
- Zwischen 1915 und 1918 entstanden während seiner Frontzeit gut 400 Zeichnungen und Gouachen
- 1920 – Streichholzhändler I, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
- 1920 – Die Skatspieler. Öl & Collage auf Leinwand, 110 x 87 cm. Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin
- 1920 – Kriegskrüppel. Verschollen
- 1921 – Bildnis der Eltern. Kunstmuseum Basel
- 1921 – Der Salon. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1922 – An die Schönheit. Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal
- 1923 – Bildnis Karl Krall. Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal
- 1920–1923 – Schützengraben. Verschollen
- 1923 – Bildnis Frau Martha Dix I. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1923 – Mieze. Buchheim-Museum, Bernried, Starnberger See
- 1924 – Der Krieg. Zyklus aus 50 Radierungen in fünf Mappen. U.a. Kunsthalle Hamburg Kupferstichkabinett; L'Historial de la Grand Guerre, Peronne
- 1924 – Die Eltern des Künstlers II. Sprengel-Museum, Hannover
- 1924 – Bildnis der Kunsthändlerin Johanna Ey. Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf
- 1924 – Selbstbildnis mit Muse. Karl Ernst Osthaus-Museum, Hagen
- 1925 – Bildnis des Photographen Hugo Erfurth. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Pinakothek der Moderne, München
- 1925 – Nelly mit Spielzeug. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1925 – Bildnis der Tänzerin Anita Berber. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1925 – Stillleben mit Witwenschleier. Otto-Dix-Haus Gera
- 1926 – Porträt der Journalistin Sylvia von Harden. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
- 1926 – Der Kunsthändler Alfred Flechtheim. Mischtechnik auf Holz, 120 x 80 cm. Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin
- 1926 – Der Streichholzhändler II. Kunsthalle Mannheim
- 1926 – Dr. Mayer-Hermann. Museum of Modern Art, New York
- 1928 – Triptychon Großstadt. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1932 – Triptychon Der Krieg. Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden
- 1932 – Bildnis des Schauspielers Heinrich George. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1933 – Die sieben Todsünden. Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
- 1933 – Die Tänzerin Tamara Danischewski. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1934 – Flandern. Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin
- 1934 – Der Triumph des Todes. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1935 – Waldrand mit Buche. Galerie Michael Haas Berlin
- 1938 – Der heilige Christophorus. Vatikanische Museen Rom
- 1939 – Der heilige Christophorus. Otto-Dix-Haus, Gera
- 1940 – Nelly als Flora
- 1945 – Madonna vor Stacheldraht und Truemmern. Kirche Maria Frieden, Berlin
- 1947 – Selbst als Kriegsgefangener. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
- 1953 – Kurt Striegler
- 1959 – Drei Kirchenfenster in der Petruskirche in Öhningen, der Nachbargemeinde seines Wohnortes Hemmenhofen
- 1960 – Krieg und Frieden. Fresko, 12 x 5 m. Auftragsarbeit für den Sitzungssaal des Rathauses Singen
- 1960 – Das Evangelium nach Matthäus. Lithographien
- 1962 – Große Kreuzaufrichtung. Stadtkirche Sankt Johannes, Bad Saulgau