Otto Dix

Biography of Otto Dix

Otto Dix was a German painter and printmaker known for his brutal yet starkly realistic depictions of Weimar society. He painted “life undiluted” and along with Georg Grosz was one of the most important artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement that arose in the 1920s. Depicting the social and political realities of the Weimar Republic, these artists sought to render life on the canvas as naked and realistic.


Born in 1891, Otto Dix was exposed to art from an early age, spending time drawing and painting in his cousin’s studio during his childhood. In 1910 he attended the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts and developed his early style which had more of a realistic quality than his later works. When World War I broke out, Otto Dix willingly volunteered for the German army. The experience of war would have a profound effect on him and the sights he witnessed were depicted in many of his harrowing etchings and paintings. Disfigured soldiers and desolate landscapes filled the dark scenes of his works.


As well as capturing the anguish and turmoil of the war, Otto Dix is renowned for his portraits of members of Germany’s intellectual and cultural figures. His wittingly sharp depictions of the human figure mean his works often possess a satirical element and rely on an exaggeration of features. Otto Dix was dedicated to painted portraits during a period when photography had largely taken over.


After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Otto Dix lost his job teaching art at the Dresden Academy and a large number of his works were confiscated to be displayed in the Degenerate Art Exhibition of 1937. During this period his work became less focused on social themes, turning instead to landscapes and Christian subjects. He again served in the German army during World War II under conscription and was released in 1946 after the war ended. In his later years he gained international recognition for his work and died in 1969.


Exhibitions of Otto Dix’s work have been held at prestigious institutions across the world, most recently at the Tate Liverpool, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Neue Galerie also in New York and the Hamburger Kunsthalle. His work is held in the collections of all major museums including the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin, the Musuem of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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