In 1914 Otto Dix, a student from the Dusseldorf school of Fine Art, volunteered at the age of twenty-four to serve on the western front with the German army.
Master of German expressionism, from 1920 to 1924, the work of this artist under the influence of Grosz is plainly anti-militarist, portraying hatred for war in a violent and moving way. The fifty etchings on display at the Historial have been brought together in one of the rare complete boxes of the Der Krieg set (The War). Nazis book-burning has actually destroyed almost of the 70 copies edited in 1924 by Karl Nierendorf in Berlin.
This cycle, inspired by “the War disaster” by Goya, corresponds with the artist’s need to erase from his memory the horrors of his wartime experiences. “The fact is, although young at the time, one doesn’t realise just to what extent the shock was profound. For at least ten years I have dreamt that I was crawling through ruined houses or corridors where there was scarcely room to pass. The ruins were always present in my dreams.”
These etchings explore the macabre theme of a horrible daily chronicle. Themes of destruction, deformation and mutilation of the human body emerge from an atmosphere of chiaroscuro to present a vision of the apocalypse. Most of the scenes depicting the objective despair of death take place in Somme or in Picardy, where Otto Dix fought.
Otto Dix shows a complete lack of respect for the combatants, his old comrades. Not wanting to glorify heroism, he denounces the savagery of the destruction. The artist never ceased to evoke the destructiveness of war and its effects on man, nature and the patrimony.
Dismissed from his position as professor of the Academy of Dresden in 1933, his work figured in the exhibition of “the degenerate artists”. In 1935 Dix exiled himself in Switzerland and devoted his work to religious themes.