World War One, Otto Dix
know, if one paints someone's portrait, one should not
know him if possible. No knowledge! I do not want to
know him at all, I only want to see what is there, on
the outside. The inner follows by itself. It is mirrored
in the visible
Dec. 2, 1891, Untermhaus, Thuringia, Ger.d. July 25,
1969, Singen, Baden-Württemberg, W.Ger.
was a German painter and engraver who mixed compassion
and Expressionist despair to create works harshly
critical of society. He was associated and exhibited
with the Neue Sachlichkeit group of painters.
of a railway worker, Dix was apprenticed to a decorative
artist and received training in Dresden. An
Impressionist at first, he experimented with various
trends in modern art until he arrived at a mordantly
individual style, a nightmarish vision of contemporary
social reality. While teaching at Düsseldorf (c.
1922-25) he did such representative paintings and
drawings as "Pimp and Girls" and "Two Sacrifices of
Capitalism" (the sacrifices are a grotesque prostitute
and a defaced former soldier). In 1924 he etched 50
plates, entitled "War," recording its horrors.
served in the German army during World War One as a
machine gunner and was present for many major battles in
both the eastern and western fronts. It was once
observed that Dix would be quietly drawing when the
battle would start. He would carefully put his work
aside and then gun down hundreds of the enemy. After
the fighting was finished, he would return to his
drawings as though nothing had happened. Yet it became
apparent in his work entitled "War" that he had indeed
been changed in a very profound way.
By the end of the war in 1918 Dix had won the Iron
Cross (second class) and reached the rank of
After the war Dix developed left-wing views and his
paintings and drawings became increasingly political.
Like other German artists such as John Heartfield and
George Grosz, Dix was angry about the way that the
wounded and crippled ex-soldiers were treated in
Germany. This was reflected in paintings such as War
Cripples (1920), Butcher's Shop (1920) and
War Wounded (1922).
In 1923 Dix's painting, The Trench was purchased
by the Wallraf-Richartz Museum. When the painting was
exhibited in 1924 its depiction of decomposed corpses in
a German trench created such a public outcry that the
museum's director, Hans Secker, was forced to resign.
Appointed a professor at the academy in Dresden (1927),
Dix was elected to the Prussian Academy (1931). The Nazi
regime, however, incensed at his antimilitary works,
cancelled these affiliations and barred him from
exhibiting. He was jailed in 1939 on a charge of
complicity in a plot on Adolf Hitler's life, but in 1945
he was drafted into the home guard army at the age of
53. He was captured and released by the French.
later turned to religious mysticism, as in "Saul and
David" (1945) and "Crucifixion" (1946).
Dix died in 1969.
World History Project