Otto Dix

(Umtermhaus, 1891 – Singen, 1969)


Otto Dix was a German painter and printmaker, noted for his ruthless and harshly realistic depictions of German society during the Weimar Republic and the brutality of war. Along with George Grosz and Max Beckmann, he is widely considered one of the most important artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit.

Son 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 a 50-plate series recording the horrors of war.

Dix’s paintings described the truth of war, and were a problem for government officials. The Nazis considered Dix a degenerate; they had him fired as an art professor at Dresden Academy. The artist was then arrested in 1939 for plotting against Adolf Hitler, but was later released. Dix was forced to serve in World War II, and was captured by French troops, before being released in 1946. Serving in another war further traumatized Dix and influenced his work. Dix eventually returned to Dresden and remained there until 1966. After the war most of his paintings were religious allegories or depictions of post-war suffering, including his 1948 Ecce homo with self-likeness behind barbed wire. In this period, Dix gained recognition in both parts of the then-divided Germany. In 1959 he was awarded the Grand Merit Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany. He continued making prints and participated in a short documentary film in 1965. In 1967, after traveling to Greece, he suffered a stroke, which paralyzed his left hand. He died in 1969.

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