Otto Dix

Otto Dix (1891-1969) was a German artist of the Weimar period. Dix’s works often contained dark or disturbing elements and expressed criticism of World War I or Weimar society.

Dix was born in Thuringia to a blue-collar family, his father a steelworker at a local industrial plant. Young Otto showed considerable artistic potential at school and was later apprenticed to a successful painter, training in Renaissance art and wall murals. 

Like other young German men, Dix embraced in the rising patriotism of 1914-15 and enlisted in the army. He served as a machine-gunner during the Allied offensive at the Somme, winning the Iron Cross. He later saw action on the Eastern Front.

After the war, Dix returned to his painting, studying in Dresden and Dusseldorf. He was traumatised by the war and influenced by Expressionism and Dada, both influencing his work during the Weimar period.

Dix’s work engaged in social and political criticism and became darker and cynical in tone. Like his fellow artist and occasional collaborator, George Grosz, Dix depicted Weimar society as dysfunctional, corrupt and fundamentally unequal, a world where wealthy capitalists grew fat while others were condemned to begging, poverty and prostitution.

Today, Dix is best known for his artistic depictions of World War I, which were often graphic and confronting. A collection of etchings titled Der Krieg (1924) included images of dismembered bodies and disfigured war veterans.

In 1927, Dix was appointed as professor of the State Academy in Dresden. His criticisms of the war and German militarism made him a target for the Nazis, however, and he was dismissed after they came to power in 1933. Most of his works were later removed from public display or destroyed. 

Shortly after, Dix withdrew from public life and relocated his family to Lake Constance, on the German-Swiss border. He remained here until the end of World War II. 

Dix took up a professorship in Dusseldorf and returned to painting, however, his work never again returned to its agonised themes of the 1920s. Dix later retired to Lake Constance and died in July 1969. 

Citation information
Title: “Otto Dix”
Authors: Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson
Publisher: Alpha History
Date published: October 17, 2019
Date accessed: Today’s date
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