One of the most extensive collections of Otto Dix prints will be offered at auction this month in which the German artist’s unique perspective on fighting World War I and dealing with its aftermath is expressed in some of the most poignant images of the world. twentieth century. -Europe of the century.
The works, which include Dix’s first prints and rare and complete portfolios, from drypoint prints to woodcuts and aquatint, are considered valuable rarities as they have been produced only in limited runs.
Because many of his paintings were confiscated and destroyed by the Nazi propaganda ministry, which labeled them “degenerate,” the prints, which have survived in far greater numbers, make up the bulk of his work.
“As they were more affordable than his paintings, the prints were more likely to hang in private homes than in galleries and therefore less likely to be confiscated,” said Séverine Nackers, director of prints at Sotheby’s Europe.
The works, which will be sold by Sotheby’s London in a 10-day online auction starting March 9, they are with a private European collector who acquired them in the 1960s at the Galerie Nierendorf. Its owner, former Berlin banker Karl Nierendorf, was one of Dix’s biggest advocates and supporters and published around 20 of his prints, as well as three portfolios, including Der Krieg, (the war), which is the highlight of the auction. From london.
Der Krieg, widely considered the most important German print portfolio of the 20th century, estimated at £ 200,000 to £ 300,000, comprises 50 drypoint etchings and aquatint. Executed in 1923-24, it recounts the artist’s life on the Western Front, where he served as a machine gunner for three years, including at the Battle of the Somme, offering him an angle of view that he would adopt as his own for life.
“He lived mainly underground, in canoes, and you see that he always looks at everything from this perspective, looking down instead of up; Even after the war, this is the perspective from which I saw the world, ”Nackers said.
“His mantra was that artists shouldn’t look away and he never did, because he didn’t want the horrors of war and its aftermath to be repeated.”
No artist, wrote a critic in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper at the time, was able to come close to Dix’s ability to convey “the apocalyptic face and naked grin of war.”
A series in the portfolio offers a documentary study of what his military unit may have seen as they walked through the slaughter of mud and corpses, overwhelmed by their equipment. It also describes the misery of life in the dark, the damp shelters, and the effects of poison gas. The images that convey the absurdity of war, such as soldiers shooting at the moon after being ordered to continue the attack no matter what, are something of a Dix trademark.
Ian Jeffrey of the Archive of Modern Conflict, who has advised Sotheby’s on the collection, has said that while Dix drew and drew on the front, he worked mostly from memory. He was probably inspired by Goya, whose series of early 19th-century engravings, The Disasters of War, has an equally powerful ethical dimension.
Jeffrey notes that Dix’s concern with the use of “cloudy aquatint” was based on his first-hand experience of the “theater of war. [being] poorly and strangely illuminated by carbide lamps, by moonlight and by Verey’s flames ”. They, in turn, illuminated horrors like the corpses of exploded men and horses.
Significantly, Der Krieg also goes beyond the battlefield scene to show collateral damage, depicting a woman driven mad by the pain of losing a child. Dix’s vision extends to post-war Dresden, where he witnessed firsthand after being demobilized from the shattered lives of veterans, as the amputee forced to sell matches who was ignored by passersby save for a dog, urinating. on your stump.
A kind of relief comes in Zirkus, his set of drypoint circus prints in which the relative glamor of the famous Dresden-based Sarrasani Circus contrasts with the sadness of city life. But even here death is not far off, in the Death Defiers and the Lion Tamer, and in the distant, steely expressions on the artists’ faces.
Dix’s rare woodcuts, described as one of the most optimistic of his works, capture the dynamism of city life, in the crackling and bubbling of the electric streetcar, whose passengers scream to be heard above the din. In Noise of the Street, he even manages to evoke a note of romance, albeit referring to the brevity of life in a legend by composer Franz Liszt Lied O Love as Long as You Can Love.
Dix only began his formal training as an artist after the end of the war. Often considered too honest and shocking, he was embraced by the anti-war movement, but his frequently exhibited works had to be withdrawn in response to protests long before the rise of the Nazis.
Martin Dammann, painter and member of the Modern Conflict File, describes Dix as “a unique figure in 20th century art” as the only visual artist who survived the First World War and later transformed his trauma into his works.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism