20th Century German Expressionist Artist – Otto Dix

Framed for his realistic images of war, Otto Dix had plenty of memories to draw from. Believing, as many did, the WWI would be 'the war to end all wars' he volunteered for the German army and eventually found himself fighting at the Battle of the Somme on the western front as a non-commissioned officer of a machine gun unit where he was injured several times, seriously once when he was hit in the neck by shrapnel. He then cooked on the eastern front until Russia and Germany negotiated peace whereupon he found himself back on the western front fighting the German spring offensive.

Having completed his way through the Dresden School of Arts by painting portraits, after the war he used his talent to paint war veterans who he shared a kinship with. His paintings depicted the dark reality of the forgotten many, maimed and starving in 1920s Germany and became increasingly political and left-wing. His paintings was so shockingly graphic that one museum director was forced to resign for exhibiting them. In 1920 he exhibited in German Expressionists in Darmstadt. He produced a portfolio of 50 etchings called 'War' in 1924 and in 1928 and 1932 he painted despite his most famous works: the triptychs Metropolis and Trench Warfare.

In order to continue working as an artist after the fascists rose to power he was forced to join the Nazi controlled Imperial Chamber of Fine Arts, painting only landscapes, though he still painted a few paintings in defiance of their regime. They challenged him of his teaching post at the Dresden Academy and used his paintings of WWI such as The Trench and War Cripples in their propaganda exhibition Entartete Karst or Degenerate Artist. Later these paintings were burned. In 1939 he was arrested and charged with conspiring against Hitler but was later released and the charges dropped.

During WWII he was conscripted into the Volkssturm or German national militia which led to his capture and imprisonment in a POW camp in France. He was released after the war in 1946 and returned to Dresden where he continued to paint on the themes of religion and post-war suffering. He died in 1969.

Works: Seven Deadly Sins

Trench Warfare


By Kirsty Semple

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