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 Otto Dix  (1891 - 1969)

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Lived/Active: Germany      Known for: landscape, portrait, figure painting, prints, German Expressionism, Realism

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from Auction House Records.
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The following text was written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher in Laguna Woods, California:

Otto Dix was born in December, 1891 in Utermhaus near Gera, in eastern Germany.  After working as an apprentice to a decorative house painter in his hometown, he entered Dresden's School of Applied Arts in 1910.  His early work was in a colorful expressionist style.  He was influenced by exhibitions of paintings by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch and Dresden's own "Die Brucke" (The Bridge) painters, a group of artists who produced emotionally expressive works.  But the most important influence on Dix's work was that he was a machine gunner in the German Army.  His wartime experiences, along with his observations of the economic and political chaos that followed the war, crystallized in a realistic, socially critical style that followed  in the footsteps of Bosch and Goya.

During the years following World War I, Dix became associated with George Grosz, Max Beckmann and other German artists who shared his critical view of society.  From 1919 to 1922 he studied painting at Dresden's Academy of Art.  He married Martha Koch and they moved to Berlin.   He became professor at Dresden's Academy of Art.  But in 1933 he was dismissed from Dresden's Academy and banned from exhibiting.  260 of Dix's works were confiscated from public collections.  In 1939, he was arrested and briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo on suspicion of being involved in an attempt to assassinate Hitler.   

In 1934 the German Nazi government featured Dix's work in several exhibitions of what they called "degenerate art."  He was forbidden to teach or exhibit, and turned to less confrontational themes of allegory and landscape painting  until he was drafted into the army in 1945.  He was conscripted into the "Volkssturm" home defense force and ended up in a French prisoner-of-war camp, but he was released a year later.   

For many years after that, he concentrated on doing lithographs as well as painting portraits and biblical scenes, until 1967, when he suffered a stroke which left his left hand paralyzed.  He died  on July 25, 1969, in Singen, Germany.   

Sources include:   
From the Internet, an Encarta Encyclopedia Article titled: Dix, Otto, article by Colin Dobbins
from the Internet , Robert Hughes in Time magazine, September 16, 1974   
ARTnews, December 1985   
Hilton Kramer in Art & Antiques, date unknown

Biography from Galerie St. Etienne:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Dix was born to a working-class family in Gera-Untermhaus.  In 1914, following several years at the School of Applied Arts in Dresden, Dix volunteered for military service and was assigned to command a machine-gun unit on the Western Front.  He served for the entire duration of the World War I and fought on both fronts.  This experience fueled his attacks on pro-military bourgeois society.  Subject matter such as war cripples and sexual deviants, treated both with bitter humor and in a more serious, almost frightening manner, dominate his work.

In 1919, Dix enrolled in the Dresden Academy, where he met Conrad Felixmüller. He was a founding member of the Dresdner Sezession-Gruppe 19 and also joined the Novembergruppe, which he would later protest with George Grosz and Rudolf Schlichter.  He participated in such key artistic events as the First International Dada Fair in 1920, and was affiliated with such politically oriented organizations as the Internationale Arbeiterhilfe, the Rote Gruppe and Nie Wieder Krieg (Never Again War), a pacifist group to which Käthe Kollwitz also belonged. 

In 1923, Dix was tried and acquitted for disseminating pornography because of his painting Girl in Front of a Mirror.  The following year, he participated in the "First General German Art Exhibit" in Moscow, where his work was not very well received. However, by 1925, he began to enjoy commercial success in Germany, which continued through the twenties.  During this time, Dix was granted a professorship at the Academy in Dresden.  Dix's success was short-lived however, and by 1930, the National Socialist Party had targeted him as a "subversive." I n May of 1933, Dix was asked to resign from his post at the Academy, and in September of that same year, his work appeared in the exhibit Images of Decadence in Art.  The press was particularly vehement in attacking Dix's War Cripples.  By 1934, he had been forbidden to paint, and in 1936, he moved to Switzerland, where he painted only landscapes.  Dix was also among the artists selected for the Degenerate Art exhibit in 1937, and the following year he sent works to a protest exhibition organized by the Burlington Galleries in London.

In 1938, the Nazis destroyed or sold over 260 of his works.  Dix seems to have moved about Europe during the Second World War, spending time in France as well as Germany and Switzerland.  After the war, he returned to Germany. I n 1956, he was named a corresponding member of the German Academy, and he received various honors throughout the rest of his life.

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