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Posts Tagged ‘Otto Dix’

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All art is exorcism. I paint dreams and visions too; the dreams and visions of my time. Painting is the effort to produce order; order in yourself. There is much chaos in me, much chaos in our time.

–Otto Dix

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The German artist Otto Dix (1891-1969) certainly saw much chaos in his time. He fought and was wounded in his neck in the chaos of World War I. He then lived through the turbulence of the Weimar Republic of post-war Germany, his paintings often reflecting its sense of despair and fatalism.

At that time, he also painted anti-war paintings that showed the horrors of combat. His paintings earned him a place of the list of Degenerate Artists when the Nazis came to power and he was removed from his teaching position at the Dresden Academy  and over 250 of his paintings were confiscated.

Several of what were considered his greatest paintings were destroyed or lost during this time. One of these, The Trench, which depicted the horror of trench warfare in grim details, was considered perhaps the greatest post-war European painting. It is shown below in a black and white photo from the time along with another lost painting, War Cripples. Another, the painting at the top The War, painted from 1929-1932, survived only because Dix separated the four panels and distributed them among friends so that they might hide them.

During the final months of World War II, many Germans who were considered too young, too old or unfit for combat were conscripted into the German army. Dix was among this group. He was captured in the chaos of combat and held by the French until 1946.

Dix knew a lot about chaos. I feel fortunate to have not been exposed to that degree of upheaval in my world.  But I can agree, even though much of the chaos I know lives inside of me, that art is an effort to produce order in oneself.

For example, the other morning I came into the studio very early with a high degree of anxiety. I had slept restlessly, tossing and turning and wide awake with my mind racing for most of the night. I was really out of sorts and seemed ready to burst. I got to work as soon as I could and began painting. I didn’t care what it was. I just knew I had to make marks, put something down on a surface on which I could put my focus.

An hour or so later, I stepped back from a finished underpainting of red oxide paint. It was not a complete painting but it conveyed the order and essence of what it would be. I could feel then that my anxiety had lifted and a calmness had replaced it. The tightness in my chest was gone and, looking at the piece, I could see that a sense of rightness, of order, had pushed away the chaos that had crept into my  mind.

I felt tears in my eyes. I am embarrassed to say that but I think it has to be said. Finding a bit of order in a world that seems filled with chaos is an emotional moment for me. It is that thing that makes art such an invaluable thing.

Dix painted scenes of chaos in order to clarify and bring to light those things that haunted him. My work is about just finding a small slice of order in the work so that it might still my own inner chaos.

It takes all kinds, I guess.

Otto Dix- “War Cripples” 1920

 

Otto Dix- “The Trench”

Otto Dix- “Skat Players”

Otto Dix- “Three Prostitutes on the Street”

 

Otto Dix- “Metropolis”

 

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