zondag, mei 15, 2016

Otto Dix

Atelier von Otto Dix, Hemmenhofen, auf der Halbinsel Höri im westlichen Bodensee.

Die Eingangsseite des Wohnhauses mit dem vorkragenden Atelierfenster. (bron: Monumente, foto's: R. Rossner)

Otto Dix, Hemmenhofen, 1947. (bron: Fontaine Community, foto: Virginia Fontaine)

At three o'clock that afternoon we called on Otto Dix. Miss Proelss and Miss Rocco came with us. He, too, lived on the hill surrounding the sea and had a wonderful view of the mountains from his house. It was a big house, beautifully appointed and bespoke the comfortable success he reaped from his early work which told the story of his people, their hardships, and horror of war in particular. It was a fine home any artist would appreciate living in. And he should be credited with one difference from his contemporaries. He has tried to find new ways and is not content to repeat what he has done in the past. His color is new, his technique is new and his ideas are new; but whether this change is for the better, I will leave for the professional critics to say. I, personally, found one small still-life of sponges and mushrooms which I liked very much and wished to purchase. I had to be content, however, with a photograph of the picture which Mr. Dix gave me for consolation.

Otto Dix was born in 1891 in Gera. He studied in the Dresden Academy, worked in Berlin, and from 1922-25 was in Dusseldorf. Since 1926 he has lived in Dresden, and, of course, moved to his summer home in Hemmenhofen every summer... He was relieved of his position in the Dresden Academy very soon after Hitler came to power, but continued to paint in the city even though not allowed to exhibit... An interesting story about the artist has just been told to me by Carl Schmidt-Rottluff who is sitting in the same room with me and Mrs. B. in Hofheim on this pleasant September afternoon. It goes like this: Otto Dix painted a very large picture in Dresden several years before the war. The subject of the painting was the story of Lot and his wives and the city in the background was actually the city of Dresden being bombed. Such a prophesy could hardly be seen publicly, and today it is in the private collection of a friend of the artist's who has always purchased his work.

I made a photograph of the artist in his studio which came out rather well, and the paintings shown in the background tell pretty well the type of work the artist is doing today. Some of the sensualism found in his earlier works is gone, and in its place a worried concern about the hereafter and approaching old age... His earlier things hardly prepare one for the religious painting he is doing today and a certain amount of sincerity is lacking... Also a somewhat sour sweetness is found in such pictures as self-portraits of himself painting at his easel with a little
golden haired girl carrying flowers, and flowers sprinkled about the floor. In fact, ordinary taste seems entirely lacking... The predominant colors in his new work are blues and grays; and as for forms, shapes and pattern or design of some kind, there just aren't any. His statements are vague and foggy and are probably true expressions of the artist's thinking at this period. By statements, I mean what he has painted, not what he has said... As a man I found him quite pleasant and cordial, but slow to smile. He was probably a little flustered to have four women descend upon him because, in Germany, it is usually a masculine visitor in an artist's studio. Very few women, if any, are in the art business in Germany... Mrs. Vogel in the Gerd Rosen Gallery in Berlin is the only other woman besides Mrs. B. I know of... Mr. Dix is not a very large man, but his long white smock made him appear taller than he actually was. His hair was sandy color and turning gray. It was long and combed straight back from his high forehead. Although his face was lined, he looked younger than his 56 years... I was impressed with the comfortable circumstances in which I found this artist, the best of any of the artist I had visited so far. He had the largest unbombed house, studio and estate I had yet seen. All that was lacking was plentiful food. No one in Germany has enough of that. And the terrible drought this summer means another hard winter for everyone.

I believe that people in America knew Dix best for his powerful anti-war lithographs, drawings and paintings made about the first warand for him to do the same type of work today would be repetitious and empty. Apparently, the Bible has been his source of inspiration for painting for the past ten years. However, there is no more difficult problem for an artist, than to translate into paint the spiritual experience one should have when reading the Bible. And when too much realism and emotion is seen in a painting, the artistic and creative purpose of art is lost. The painting becomes an illustration.

In fact, it was quite an experience for me to discover Dix the painter in Germany. I had really only known his name and fame a few years ago. I knew and admired his early work in my art student days, but to discover his later paintings in current exhibitions confused me considerably and aroused my curiosity to meet the painter... The first time I ran into his new work was in the Mainz exhibition in the Kunsthalle Am Dom last June, 1947. Dr. Rudolf Busch, local museum director, had done a fine job in assembling one of the first post-war shows of the modern German painters. He is quite an old man and one can only marvel at his energy and devotion in traveling about the country to pick out the pictures he wished to exhibit... In this show Dix had entered two very large oil paintings; one entitled “Pieta,” which was reproduced in the catalogue, and the other “Woman with Child in Ruins,” painted in 1946 and 47 respectively... Paul and I did not think much of these paintings.

The next time I found Dix paintings was in the Künstlerhaus “Sonnenhald” in Stuttgart where the Haubrich Collection from Cologne was on view in July. The paintings Haubrich had purchased were from an earlier Dix period and were entirely different from what I had seen in Mainz. These were very realistic tightly painted portraits, two of himself and one of “Dichters Theodor Daubler.” I took a photo of the later.

Other paintings which I remember seeing in Dix's studio were: a sensuous nude hanging above the door, a big painting of a nude woman struggling with weird goblins, a portrait head of Erich Heckel painted in green, rather frightening to look at; The Temptation of St. Anthony painted in his new impressionist manner, and a recent nude figure painting of a tall attractive blonde girl I had met at Miss Proelss' home... most of this work seemed to lack good color and taste... When we told Heckel that we had seen his portrait by Dix, he was surprised and said he had never seen it and knew nothing about it.
...." (uit: Report from Bodensee door Virginia Fontaine)

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