Otto Dix’s War Sketches

I was lucky enough to see the exhibit of Otto Dix’s paintings in Montreal last year. I previously thought of him as one of the weaker expressionists, being too unsubtle even by their standards (check out his doctors, but his war portraits in particular really impressed me and showed a far greater range than his portraits and paintings. This site with Otto Dix’s War Cycle has a good selection, but many are missing and who knows how long it’ll be up, so here are some of the ones that most struck me. I’m not going to post any of the most unbearable images, and I’m starting with the milder stuff. Some of the most overwhelming are from a cycle he did in 1924, but there are other equally good drawings from around the same time and before.

Before gas masks became a horror staple:

Storm Troopers Advancing Under Gas

There’s a bit of an EC Comics vibe to this one. Art Spiegelman loved the expressionists, Grosz especially, and I think their influence shows up strongly in a lot of the RAW comics of the 80s, Sue Coe for example. Not that it hadn’t shown up earlier in the underground too.

Wounded Soldier

Likewise this one. Recently the black and white drawings of Lorenzo Mattotti seem to have taken on the quality of the scribbled figure here:

Nocturnal Encounter with a Lunatic

This sketch bizarrely seems to anticipate George Grosz:

Card Players

This one I would swear was *by* Grosz:

War Cripples

As a side note, some apt music for these sketches. I think Richter has the edge but Sokolov here is very, very good. I’m usually a speed demon but this particular movement should not be played too fast.

This one jumps out at me for the dominance of the landscape rather than of the figures, and the overall brilliance of the composition. Usually my eye is drawn toward some central horror of a work by Dix (not just in the war work, but all of it), but here the whole print is balanced.

Disintegrating Trench

This picture of barbed wire with bodies needs to be seen in much better resolution, though it’s a lot less horrifying at this size. The whole cycle is compared to Goya but the lines here remind me of Rembrandt.

Barbed Wire in Front of the Trenches

The linework here is amazing:

Totentanz

Finally, as a bookend, an allegorical painting from around the same time. The colors here are not captured well; the painting was much more compelling “in person.”

Still Life with Widow's Veil