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Last updated: 1/25/2017
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Studying War: Goya, Grosz, Rouault, and Dix

Goya: The Disasters of War / Grosz: Ecce Homo / Rouault: Miserere / Dix: Gospel according to St. Matthew
Studying War: Page 2
“Studying War,” our current exhibition, is a 154-work meditation on war and society: more precisely, it includes Goya's Disasters of War (we have a complete set of 80 plus the unpublished plate 81, which was not included in the original edition and, after the plate was recovered in 1956, was printed in a small edition for the fellows of the institution where Goya’s copperplates are stored), the 16 color plates from George Grosz’ Ecce Homo (of which 15 will be on the wall and the other one available for viewing; we also have a full set of the 84 black-and-whote offset lithographs that made up the total of 100 pieces), and 27 selections from George Rouault's Miserere, some from the section with a title page announcing it to be Miserere and some from the section with a title page announcing it to be Guerre, done in the aftermath of World War I and full of mixed-media prints of people at war with themselves and each other. We will also be showing 31 of Otto Dix's lithographs for The Gospel according to Saint Matthew (there are 31 pieces in the show, but one has another lithograph printed on the verso, making the grand total of 32), in which the Temple Guards and the Roman soldiers are played by uniformed Nazi SA and SS troopers.
The pieces by Otto Dix hang in an area very awkward to photograph but very easy to look at the individual pieces when one is standing there. Measuring about 14.5x10 feet, it is easy to get up close to the art when standing in it, but very hard to photograph unless at an extreme angle. The outstanding feature of the lithographs in person is the blackness of the blacks against the off white paper. At an angle and with the lights on and from a distance, the effect is largely lost. To see them as they are, photographed straight on and out of the frame, please go to http://www.spaightwoodgalleries.com/Pages/Dix.html and the two linked pages.
Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969), Der Kindermord zu Bethlehem / The Slaughter of the Innocents (Karsch 238). Original lithograph, 1960. 2000 impressions published in Das Evangelium nach Matthäus. Dix portrays Herod's soldiers in the uniform of Hitler's SA Troops. Image size: 293x225mm. Price: $750.
Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969), Die Versuchnung Jesu / Satan tempting Jesus (Karsch 240 ii/ii). Original lithograph, 1960. 2000 impressions published in Das Evangelium nach Matthäus. Satan is portrayed in the form of a giant bat-headed figure while a german city with skyscrapers stands in for Jerusalem as a backdrop. Image size: 290x229mm. Price: $750.
Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969), Die Gefangennahme / The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Karsch 260). Original lithograph, 1960. 2000 impressions published in Das Evangelium nach Matthäus. The "Roman" soliers who come with Judas to arrest Jesus wear the same style helmets as the German army wore in World War II. Image size: 288x225mm. Price: $750.
Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969), Die Verspottung / Christ mocked (Karsch 263). Original lithograph, 1960. 2000 impressions published in Das Evangelium nach Matthäus. Again the mockers wear the fshions of 20th-century Germany, particularly the woman wearing an evening gown and sticking her tongue out at Jesus in a childish gesture of contempt. Image size: 290x223mm. Price: $750.
Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969), Die Kreutztragung / Jesus carrying the cross (Karsch 264). Original lithograph, 1960. 2000 impressions published in Das Evangelium nach Matthäus. Jesus, with a rope around his neck is beaten by a burly man whose rolled up sleeves and lack of uniform suggest a slave overseer; the crowd behind look numb as they watch Jesus, fallen under the cross, beaten. Image size: 283x225mm. Price: $750.
Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969), )was born in Untermhaus, near the city of Gera. The eldest son of an iron foundry worker, like Kollwitz he was exposed to art from an early age; his mother had written poetry in her youth, and he had a cousin who was a painter. In 1910, he entered the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts and supported himself as a portrait painter. As Reinheld Heller observes in his article on Dix in The Grove Dictionary of Art (9: 41-43), Dix combined "a verisitic style derived from Nothern Renaissance prototypes. . . . [with a] randomly colored Expressionism" (9: 41), using thin glazes of oil paint over a tempera underpainting. When the First World War began, Dix volunteered for the German Army and was assigned to a field artillery regiment. By the fall of 1915 he was a non-commissioned officer of a machine-gun unit in the Western front and took part of the Battle of the Somme. He was seriously wounded several times. In 1917, his unit was transferred to the Eastern front until the end of hostilities with Russia. Back in the western front, he fought in the German Spring offensive. He earned the Iron Cross (second class) and reached the rank of vice-sergeant-major. Dix was profoundly affected by the sights of the war, and would later describe a recurring nightmare in which he crawled through destroyed houses. For Dix, "War was something so animal like: hunger, lice, slime, these crazy sounds . . . War was something horrible, but nonethless something powerful . . . Under no circumstances could I miss it! It is necessary to see people in this unchained condition in order to know something about man" (9: 41). He represented his traumatic experiences in many subsequent works, including one of his graphic masterpieces, a portfolio of fifty etchings called Der Krieg / The War, published in 1924.

At the end of 1918 Dix returned to Gera, but the next year he moved to Dresden, where he studied at the Akademie der Bildende Künste. In 1919 he became a founder of the Dresdener Sezession Gruppe, which Heller describes as "a group of radical Expressionist and Dada artists and writers." In 1920 he met George Grosz and, influenced by Dada, began incorporating collage elements into his works, some of which he exhibited in the first Dada Fair in Berlin. He also participated in the German Expressionists exhibition in Darmstadt that year; in 1924 he joined the Berlin Secession. His 1923 painting The Trench, which depicted dismembered and decomposed bodies of soldiers after a battle caused such a furor that the Wallraf-Richartz Museum hid the painting behind a curtain. In 1925 the then-mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer (later to become Chancellor of Germany from 1949-1963), cancelled the purchase of the painting and forced the director of the museum to resign. 

By the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) exhibition in Mannheim in 1925, which featured works by George Grosz, Max Beckmann, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Karl Hubbuch, Rudolf Schlichter, Georg Scholz and many others, Dix was recognized as one of its leading painters: five of his paintings were included and, according to Frances Carey and Antony Griffiths, The Print in Germany 1880-1933: The Age of Expressionism (London: British Museum, 1984), Dix emerged as the dominant personality, among figures like Grosz, Schlichter, and Hubbuch (p. 183). Dix's work, like that of Grosz, was extremely critical of contemporary German society and often dwelled on the act of Lustmord, or sexual murder. He drew attention to the bleaker side of life, unsparingly depicting prostitution, violence, old age and death. His depictions of the legless and disfigured veterans that were a common sight on Berlin's streets in the 1920s clearly illustrate their forgotten status, a fate echoed in the drawings, paintings, and prints of many French and German artists, including Jean-Louis Forain and Heinrich Campendonck. Linda McGreevy has argued that the personal experiences of the artists who survived the war years almost compelled them to find styles that would permit them to express their struggles with their memories: "Propelled by memories of events so shattering . . . an imagery emerged not 'in tranquility,' as described by Wordsworth [in his 1798 Preface to The Lryical Ballads], but in a heated re-creation of the war's immediacy," and invited the invention of "a documentary style, its heightened realism fused with the emotional charge generated by prewar Expressionism" (p. 3).

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Dix was dismissed from his teaching position at the Düsseldorf Akademie and in 1934 he was forbidden to exhibit his work publiscly. In 1937, 260 of his works were confiscated; some were included in the infamous Entartete Kunst / Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich and two of his works were publicly burnt in 1939 for attempting "to undermine the German people's attempt to defend itself." In 1937, Dix moved to Hemmenhofen on Lake Constance where he painted The Seven Deadly Sins, depicting Hitler as Envy. Dix was forced to join the Nazi-controlled Imperial chamber of Fine Arts in order to be able to work as an artist at all and had to promise to paint only landscapes. In 1939 he was arrested on a charge of being involved in a plot against Hitler (see Georg Elser) but was later released. During World War II Dix was conscripted into the Volkssturm. He was captured by French troops at the end of the war and released in February 1946. Dix eventually returned to Dresden.

After the war most of his paintings were religious allegories or depictions of post-war suffering. His major works as a printmaker mirror the two parts of his career. The etchings of Der Krieg (1924), published in five portfolios of 10 prints each, stand with Goya's Disasters of War and the works of the "Guerre / War" section of Rouault's Miserere, as one of the supreme presentations of the horrors and suffering of war as seen by eye witnesses unable to shake the memories from their mind's eye; his 33 original lithographs for Das Evangelium nach Matthäus, a deluxe edition of the Gospel According to St. Matthew published in 1960, can be compared with Dürer's Small Woodcut Passion and Rouault's Miserere taken as a whole. Using the Gospel story as a model for interpreting events, they contextualize the present day's horrors against the meaning provided by the whole of the story of which they are a part. While they lack the searing intensity of the etchings for Der Krieg, they provide a deeply moving testament to the biblical story of how a state or a church can turn upon itself and destroy those who embody its best hopes.

Bibliography: Eva Karcher, Otto Dix 1891-1969: His Life and Works (Cologne: Benedikt Taschen, 1988; Florian Karsch, Otto Dix: Das graphische Werk (Hannover: Fackelträger-Verlag Schmidt-Kuster, 1970); Fritz Loffler, Otto Dix: Graphik aus fünf Jarhzehnten (Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1978); Fritz Loffler, Otto Dix: Life and Work Trans R. J. Hollingdale (NY: Holmes & Meier, 1982); Bertrand Lorquin et al., Allemagne, Les Années Noires (Paris: Gallimard, 2007); Linda F. McGreevy, Bitter Witness: Otto Dix and the Great War (NY: Peter Lang, 2001); Reiner E. Moritz, Otto Dix: The Painter is the Eyes of the World (Poorhouse Productions, 1989); Olaf Peters, ed., Otto Dix (NY: Prestel, 2010); Uwe M. Schneede, Otto Dix: Zeichnungen, Aqarelle, Grafiken, Kartons (Hamburg: Kunstverein in Hamburg, 1977).
Another wall that is hard to photograph yet easy to see in the flesh: the problem is a large ceramic sculpture by Joan Gardy Artigas that stands dead center opposite this wall so that it can only be photographed at an angle. Here are the first 8 offset color lithographs from Grosz' Ecce Homo. They were executed between 1918 and 1922 and published in January 1923. Grosz is here concerned with the mentality that got Germany into the war and the bitterness that followed Germany's loss in the war. For a better view of these pieces, please see

Ecce Homo (Berlin: Malik Verlag, 1923) is perhaps the most famous of Grosz's collections. The title echoes Pilate's presentation to the crowd of Jesus as King of the Jews, beaten, with a crown of thorns, bloody and ready for crucifixion, and clearly not the Messiah he had been proclaimed to be six days earlier when he was greeted by rapturous crowds. Just so, the image of the heroic German, brave in war and moral in peacetime, took such a beating in Grosz's drawings, watercolors, and paintings, that he was prosecuted for "offences against public morality and for besmirching the values of the German people" (Kranzfelder, 59). Ecce Homo was found to be a slanderous attack upon the army, which won damages and the removal of 5 color plates and 17 black and white plates from the portfolio in a law suit. Grosz was also fined 6000 marks. Since Grosz had been attacking the Nazis since the early 1920s and since he had singled out Hitler in particular, it is not surprising that after the Nazis took power in Germany, his works were singled out for ridicule and destruction. 285 of his works were removed from German collections and destroyed; the 1937 Munich Exhibition of Nazi-labelled "Degenerate Art" included five of his paintings, two watercolors, and thirteen drawings (Kranzfelder, p. 86). After relocating to the U.S., Grosz wrote to J. B. Neuman concerning his own place in the history of art: "My drawings will naturally stay true–they are fireproof. They will later be seen as Goya's work [is]. They are not documents of the class struggle, but eternally living documents of human stupidity and brutality" (Hess, p. 240).
George Grosz (German, 1893-1958), Schönheit, dich will ich preisen / Beauty, Thee I Praise (1920) (Duckers S1-III). Offset color lithograph after a watercolor for Ecce Homo, 1922. Our impression is from the unsigned Ausgabe C of the first edition of Ecce Homo (Berlin, 1923). For a full-page color illustration see Kranzfelder, p. 61; there is also a full-page illustration in black and white in Hess, p. 97. Image size: 280x189mm. Price: $2250.
George Grosz (German, 1893-1958), Ecce Homo / Behold the Man (1921) (Duckers S1-IV). Offset color lithograph after a watercolor for Ecce Homo, 1922. Grosz has included himself in this scene in the person of the man in the hat smoking a cigar at bottom left-center. Our impression is from the unsigned Ausgabe C of the first edition of Ecce Homo (Berlin, 1923). Illustrated Kranzfelder, p. 58. Image size: 280x189mm. Price: $2000.
George Grosz (German, 1893-1958), Kraft und Anmut / Strength and Grace (1922) (Duckers S1-VII). Offset color lithograph after a watercolor for Ecce Homo, 1922. Our impression is from the unsigned Ausgabe C of the first edition of Ecce Homo (Berlin, 1923). Illustrated Kranzfelder, p. 55 and Hess, plate 84. Image size: 239x189mm. Price: $2000.
George Grosz (German, 1893-1958), Der Mensch ist gut / People are basically good (1921) (Duckers S-XII). Offset color lithograph after a watercolor for Ecce Homo, 1922. Our impression is from the unsigned Ausgabe C of the first edition of Ecce Homo (Berlin, 1923). Image size: 275x200mm. Price: $2000.
George Grosz (German, 1893-1958), Walzertraum / Waltz Dream (1921) (Duckers S-XIV). Offset color lithograph after a watercolor for Ecce Homo, 1922. Our impression is from the unsigned Ausgabe C of the first edition of Ecce Homo (Berlin, 1923). The work is reproduced in the catalogue of the 15th European Exhibition, Tendenzen der Zwanziger Jahre (Berlin, 1977) and in Grosz's autobiography, where it is titled, "The Relicts." Image size: 252x194mm. Price: $2250.
George Grosz (German, 1893-1958), Dämmerung / Dusk (1922) (Duckers S-XVI). Offset color lithograph after a watercolor for Ecce Homo, 1922. Offset color lithograph after a watercolor for Ecce Homo, 1922. Our impression is from the unsigned Ausgabe C of the first edition of Ecce Homo (Berlin, 1923). Full page Illustration Kranzfelder, p. 47. Image size: 283x210mm. Price: $2000.

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