Otto Dix (Otto Dix)

Otto Dix

Painter,  Printmaker.  A leader of Germany’s “New Objectivity” movement,  famed for his unflinching portrayals of World War I and the decadence of 1920s  Weimar society.  Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix was born in Untermhaus,  Germany.  He studied at Dresden’s School of Decorative art (1909 to 1914) while privately absorbing influences from Post-Impressionism and early Expressionism.  At the start of WWI he eagerly volunteered for the German Army and saw action as a machine-gunner in the Battle of the Somme (1916) and on the Eastern Front;  rising to the rank of vice-sergeant-major,  he was wounded several times and awarded the Iron Cross.  He found his service both traumatic and fascinating,  as he explained in a 1963 interview:  “I had to experience how someone beside me suddenly falls over and is dead and the bullet has hit him squarely. I had to experience that quite directly. I wanted it. I’m therefore not a pacifist at all – or am I? Perhaps I was an inquisitive person….I have to experience all the ghastly, bottomless depths of life for myself”.  The madness of mechanized warfare would occupy a central place in Dix’s work for more than a decade, culminating with the profoundly disturbing print series “Der Krieg” (“War”,  1924).  A collection of 51 etchings drawn from his life in the trenches,  it ranks among the most powerful condemnations of war in any art form.  From 1919 Dix lived in Dresden,  Dusseldorf,  and Berlin,  and was associated with the politically-oriented November Group,  the Dresden Secession,  and the Dadaists.  He became a savage social commentator of the Weimar Republic,  whose paintings presented a postwar German world of hustlers,  debauched hedonists,  old prostitutes,  drug addicts,  and disabled veterans begging in the streets.  Typical of this phase are “Girl before Mirror” (1922),  for which Dix was tried and acquitted for indecenecy;  his famous portraits of entertainer Anita Berber (1925) and journalist Sylvia von Harden (1926);  and the monumental tryptic “Metropolis” (1928).  Dix was appointed professor at the Dresden Academy in 1926 and elected to the Prussian Academy in 1931,  but with success came increasing attacks from right-wing critics.  When the Nazis came to power in 1933 Dix was stripped of his honors and positions and was forbidden to paint anything but landscapes.  Over 250 of his paintings were removed from German museums;  some were featured in the Nazis’ notorious “Entartete Kunst” (“Degenerate Art”) exhibit in Munich in 1937.  The artist sought seclusion in the small town of Hemmenhofen on Lake Constance,  and secretly painted several religious allegories criticizing the regime. In 1939 he was arrested by the Gestapo for suspected involvement in a plot to kill Hitler,  but was released after two weeks of interrogation.  During the waning months of World War II he was conscripted into the Volkssturm and sat out the rest of the conflict in a French POW camp.  Dix returned to a divided Germany to find himself welcomed by the communist East as well as the West,  and he accepted prestigious awards from both.  In his late paintings he continued to explore religious themes. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)


  • December, 02, 1891


  • July, 07, 1969


  • Friedhof Hemmenhofen
  • Germany

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