Otto Dix, Self-Portrait, 1922
A friend just posted me a link to the show of newly discovered Dix watercolors in Dusseldorf, reminding me I’ve been wanting to do a post on Otto Dix, continuing along the exploration of Weimar Germany on the posts concerning George Grosz, Beckmann, and Rudolf Schlichter. The Weimar artists have always been important to me in the past but given the current economic and cultural collapse in the US along with the cult of militarization, their work is ever more salient and meaningful.
Dix studied art at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts in 1909 (the Dresden whose fire bombing by the allies Kurt Vonnegut so powerfully portrayed in Slaughterhouse Five). Just as with the Royal Academy when Turner and Constable received schooling, the Dresden Academy didn’t offer painting instruction in Academic methods. Dix taught himself, just as Turner did, by looking at and studying intensively Dutch, Italian and German masters. As with all the other Expressionists, Vincent van Gogh was a prime influence. Dix was introduced toVan Gogh’s work at an exhibition in 1913.
Dix was seriously wounded on several occasions during the first World War and his experiences there were determinative as far as how he saw and depicted the world subsequently. He founded the Dresden Secession Group in 1919, a group which included Oskar Kokoschka, who’s another painter I want to take up when I have a chance.
His art, of course, was targeted along with other Modern painters by the Nazis. As well as his “degenerate” work being banned he was dismissed from his post at the Dresden Academy in 1933, a post that he’d held since 1927. He remained in Germany during the war years under Goebbels’ Cultural Ministry, which was mandatory for all artists in the Reich. But he still made secret paintings kept from sight of Nazi officials.
He died in 1969.
Otto Dix, The Seven Deadly Sins, 1933, oil and tempera on wood
Envy is the figure seated on the back of Avarice. The Hitler moustache wasn’t painted on until after WWII, when it was at last safe to do so.
Sloth is prominently featured as Dix put the blame on the German people for their lack of action or involvement in allowing Hitler and the Nazi Party to rise to power.