The artist as impartial witness: Otto Dix

I have a stack of about twenty issues of the German art magazine art, most of them from the early nineties. Gorgeous reproductions, well-written articles, and interesting subject matter keep these magazines relevant and informative; every once in a while I like to pick up one of them and go through it again. So this morning: I wanted something to look at while having breakfast, and I randomly grabbed an issue.

Portrait of Anita Berber, 1925

Its focus was the German painter Otto Dix, one of the founders of the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) movement. His amazing paintings made me want to learn more about him and his art, so I read the main article — only to find out that he was born today 118 years ago, on 2 December 1891! Strange coincidence…

Unlike other expressionist artists, Paul Klee for example who declared that the true nature of things lies behind the visible, the surface, Dix was convinced that outer reality contained everything else. The inner world will be revealed by a faithful rendition of the outer. He didn’t embellish what he saw; on the contrary, he deeply shocked many of his contemporaries with his brutal honesty. Not afraid to paint the ugly, the depraved, the broken, the miserable, the wounded, he held up a mirror that many couldn’t bear to look into.

Prager Straße, 1920

He had joined the First World War because of a compulsion to experience and witness everything, no matter how horrible, but what he saw was so gruesome and disturbing, that he was deeply traumatized for over a decade. The paintings and etchings he produced about his time as a soldier got him in trouble with the bourgeois authorities even before the Nazis gained power; they also firmly established him as perhaps the most powerful and radical anti-war advocate of modern art. I wish that our President would see Dix’s paintings.

To learn more about this artist and to see more of his paintings, please follow these links:
Otto Dix (1891 – 1969)
Otto Dix — German Political Art
Otto Dix Paintings
Otto Dix Gallery
Otto Dix’s Der Krieg [War] cycle 1924


About artnexus

art-lover photographer
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2 Responses to The artist as impartial witness: Otto Dix

  1. artnexus says:

    Thanks Kimm — I’m still blown away by this coincidence… I don’t look at these magazines often, maybe once a year, and that I would pick the one about Otto Dix exactly on his birthday, and exactly at a time when we’re so sick to death of wars, and more troops being sent to — I almost said Vietnam… the futility, idiocy, craziness of it all…

  2. Kimm Wiens says:

    Nice blog entry Jessica. Very much in the present moment but it also ties together that moment (your picking up the magazine) with the past (Otto Dix) and the future (Obama needs to wake up and these might help him). I always enjoy your writing.

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