Featured Works of Art

On this (new as at 17.02.21) page, I feature some of the works that I have or am currently researching, accompanied by a short text with some insights. The works will be in no particular order but will mainly be examples of war-related art.

17 February 2021: Otto Dix, War Wounded (Kriegsverletzter), 1922

Though there is no specific date for when this picture was completed, it is known that Otto Dix sold it to the Galerie Nierendorf on 24 July 1922. Stylistically, it is a definite departure from the four Dada-influenced war cripple paintings of 1920, moving towards the bitter realism of his controversial painting The Trench [Der Schützengraben] (1923, lost) and his suite of intaglio prints, The War [Der Krieg] (1924).

Otto Dix, War Wounded (Kriegsverletzter), 1922. Pencil and watercolour on paper, 48.8 x 36.9 cm. Kupferstich-Kabinett (Prints and Drawings), State Art Collections, Dresden.

Left: Otto Dix, Transplantation, Portfolio 4, Print 10, The War, 1924. Etching, aquatint and drypoint, 19.8 x 14.9 cm (sheet size; shown with sheet cropped). Right: Soldier with Facial Injuries, c. 1920/24. Photographer unknown (Hugo Erfurth?). The etching shows that Dix did not reverse his drawing (made either directly on the plate or on paper and then copied to the plate).

This picture is intriguing for several reasons, one of which is the possibility that Dix painted this picture in one of the many special hospitals for wounded veterans of World War I, working directly from one of the patients. The sitter wears a hospital shirt typical of this period and similar to that in the photograph above, which also formed the motif for one of Dix’s etchings in the The War [Der Krieg]. On close inspection, as German researcher Bernhard Maaz notes, all four edges of the sheet of paper are perforated, meaning that the paper is unlikely to have been produced for artistic purposes but possibly as tear-out sheets used for medical records. The sitter’s name is unknown but it may have been known to Dix, who did not name the sitter in order to protect his identity. Alternatively, Dix may have worked from a photograph as he did for the etching in The War. But as a veteran who served thirty-eight months on the battlefields, such injuries were nothing new and Dix may have worked from memory. At this time, facially wounded men were largely unseen by the public and at least until late 1920, were not allowed to own photographs of themselves (Erich Kuttner, 1920). Some of these men remained in hospital for several years after the war, as their horribly painful wounds slowly healed, or slowly killed them. Some remained hidden even from their families. Anarcho-pacifist Ernst Friedrich published his book War against War! [Krieg dem Kriege!] in 1924, which included numerous photographs of the facially wounded, bringing to the fore the immense suffering caused to the human body by industrailised warfare.

Interestingly, the picture was sold by Dix’s widow Martha in 1973 to the surgeon Prof. Dr. Werner Widmaier in Leonberg, who himself had suffered injury during the war.

References: Bernhard Maaz, ‘Otto Dix’ “Kriegsverletzter”. Zu eine Neuerwerbung des Dresdner Kupferstich-Kabinetts’, in Otto Dix. Der Krieg – Das Dresdner Triptychon, ed. by Birgit Dalbajewa, Simone Fleischer and Olaf Peters, pp 96-97. Erich Kuttner, ‘Vergessen! Die Kriegszermalmten in Berliner Lazaretten’, Vorwärts, 9 September 1920, pp.1-2. Ernst Friedrich, War against War!, 2 volumes. 1st edition, Verlag Freie Jugend, Berlin 1924. (1st edition is in four languages: German, French, English and Dutch).

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