"Artist shouldn't try to improve and convert; they're far too insignificant for that. They must only bear witness."
(Otto Dix, 1958)
Otto Dix was a German painter and printmaker. Though broadly recognized, as an anti-war artist Dix never declared himself as such.
Born in Germany to middle class parents Dix began his training as a decorative painter. While serving on the front lines of World War I, and living in the trenches, Dix sketched the desolate and destroyed landscape. Upon his return from the war his images focused on the soldiers and their lives both in and out of the trenches. The National Gallery of Canada has the complete portfolio of his etchings series "Der Krieg" (War), created from his memories of World War I, which includes Wounded Soldier (Autumn 1916, Bapaume) , and Front-line Soldier in Brussels. After the war Dix studied at the Dresden Academy of Art.
The young artist believed he would become either famous or notorious, by 1923 he was well on his way with two pornography charges, for which he was later acquitted, and a heated controversy surrounding the sale of his painting The Trench to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne; a strong public outcry against the purchase of the visceral image forced the museum to return the painting to artist.
In the mid 1920's Dix moved to Berlin and began to paint portraits of the artistic elite. These elegant portraits brought him the fame he long believed would come his way. In 1927 he was hired as a professor of painting at the Dresden Academy of Art. The following year he was exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum's "International Exhibition of Modern Art" and in 1930 his work was shown at the Venice Biennale.
Life for Dix changed dramatically in 1933 when the Nazis took power. Deeming his work "Degenerate" they forbade Dix to teach and confiscated over 260 of his works. Banned from exhibiting, Dix turned to landscape painting during the war years as a means to continue his practice.
After World War II, Dix's work was largely ignored by the German avant-garde who saw his work as relevant only to a pre-world war II world. Currently contemporary critics and scholars are revisiting Dix's aesthetic and the role it played in shaping Germany society during the challenging interwar years.