Otto Dix

Otto Dix Painting - 'To Beauty'
Otto Dix Painting - self portrait
Otto Dix Painting - self portrait
Otto Dix Painting - St Christopher

Checkout my latest Art History Videos

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

Otto Dix

Otto Dix Early Life

Otto Dix was a German artist born in 1891 in Untermhaus near Gera in Thuringia. He was influenced by his art teacher and his mother’s cousin, who was a painter, to become an artist himself. He trained at the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts and taught himself painting through studying old masters and practicing.

Otto Dix in the Trenches

During WWI, he served as a machine gunner and was wounded multiple times. After the war, he was affected by the trauma of his experiences and became increasingly political, adopting left-wing views and developing his art to reflect the harsh realities of the Weimar Republic.

New Beginnings

He was part of the New Objectivity movement and his paintings often satirized society and the devastating toll of war. He married in 1923 and his painting Salon 1 was confiscated in Darmstadt for its depiction of women turning to prostitution after the war. His painting The Trench, showing dismembered bodies of soldiers after a battle, was also criticized and had to be displayed behind a curtain. He settled in Berlin in 1925, where his work continued to be critical of German society.

Otto Dix’s Great Paintings

He painted his famous portrait of journalist Sylvia von Harden in 1926, which characterized the period and was referenced in the 1972 film “Cabaret.” He later moved to Dresden and was appointed professor of art at the Dresden Art Academy. In 1928, his paintings were shown in Venice and New York and he began work on his masterpiece “Metropolis,” which depicted the depravity faced by the Weimar Republic during hyperinflation and widespread poverty. In the 1930s, Dix was a committed portrait painter and produced portraits of German intellectuals and children. He became a full member of the Prussian Academy of the Arts in Berlin in 1931. When Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933, Dix was dismissed from his professorship and his paintings were ridiculed in the Nazi Art exhibition “Reflections of Decay.”

The Nazi’s destroy Otto Dix’s Work

In 1937, Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, ordered the confiscation of 260 paintings by Otto Dix. 8 of Dix’s paintings were displayed in the Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich. As a German artist, Dix was forced to join the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts and paint only approved subjects, but he sometimes defied the order. In 1939, Dix was arrested and imprisoned for two weeks. After his release, he was forced to take refuge near the Swiss border. In 1942, Dix refused a contract to paint a portrait of the foreign minister of the German Reich. At the end of the war, he was forced to enlist in the German People’s Militia and was captured by French forces, but was allowed to paint in the prison camp.

Otto Dix Paints Religious Paintings

He was released in 1946 and returned to live in Hemmenhofen, where he painted religious themes such as “Job” and “Christ on the Cross”.
Otto Dix was an artist who managed to navigate between the regimes of East and West Germany in the post-WWII period. He participated in exhibitions in New York and various parts of Germany, and was a member of the German Academy of the Arts in both East and West Berlin. He received many honours, including the Rembrandt Prize and had his work War purchased by the state art collection in Dresden.

Otto Dix Final Years

In 1966, he visited Dresden and received honours for his 75th birthday. He suffered a stroke in 1967 which resulted in paralysis of his left hand and died of a heart attack in 1969. Dix was known for his paintings that represented the world as a grotesque farce, and his portraits, which symbolized the hedonistic Weimar Republic and influenced other portrait artists in the 20th century.

Checkout other 20th century artists: Rene Magritte