The Great War Through the Eyes of an Artist
How does one depict art? Art has been around since the dawn of man. A form of self-expression, a way to creatively put down ones ideals in hopes of creating a masterpiece, and where ever there has been art there has been an artist. In society the artist is a very important person able to utilize his work and make the people think and question the higher power. Out of the entire artistic association of the world and over the entire timeline of history one has stood out to me. A man who essentially went to hell and back, a man who put what he saw down so that he could warn others of the tragedies of the World War One world. Scarred for life and haunted by flash-backs of the killings; the brutality, the rapes, and the utter destruction of whole towns and cities Otto Dix struggled to remake these memories onto his art. Dix as an artist was not only influenced by World War One but as a true artist Dix in return changed the view of war to all peoples forever.
Otto Dix was born Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix on December 2, 1891 to Ernst Franz Dix and Pauline Louise Dix. Wilhelm was the eldest son of the four surviving children in the Dix Family, although his older brother would die seven years before Otto’s’ birth and his youngest sibling would die within a year of her life (art-directory). He was raised in Untermhaus, Germany, located on the outskirts of Gera. Franz Dix was an iron foundry worker and Louise was a seamstress as well as a retired poet. Franz taught his children how the social classes functioned and how there would always be someone above them, as well as someone below them.
While Franz’s side of the family taught Otto the social side of life, Louise’s side of the family taught Otto the cultered side of society. Otto’s cousin Fritz Amann was the first to introduce Otto to art. Otto was quoted saying “The wonderful smell of oil paints and lacquers,” ( ). Otto said this near the end of his life as he remembered how visiting his cousin’s studios was when he decided to dedicate his life to art. Dix’s door had opened and a storm of creativity began to flood through. As Dix grew, his art expanded.
Dix’s next great influence was Ernst Schunke, a grammar teacher at Untermhaus Grammar School. Ernst would take young Dix out to the fields to sketch the landscape. “All this must be sketched more precicely!” a common lesson that Ernst frequently exclaimed to Dix, teaching him about precision and detail. Dix experimented with all forms of art. Impressionism, realism, portraiture, cubism, and landscape.
Dix eventually began to lose some of his inspiration and would be described as a starving artist by friends and family. Feeling empty, alone, uninspired, and broke, Otto sought salvation in the form of World War I. “I had to experience all the ghastly, bottomless depths of life for myself, it is for that reason that I went to war, that I volunteered, the war was a horrible thing but there was something tremendous about it too, you have to have seen human beings in this unleashed state to know what human nature is.” (Otto Dix, 1963) The war could not have come around at a better time for Otto Dix, he saw the war as an opportunity. Volunteering at the age of 23, Otto was sent out to a field artillery regiment in Dresden. Then in the Autumn of 1915; Dix was assigned to the Western Front in a machine gun unit as a non-commissioned officer. As a gunman, Otto’s main job was to blindly fire bullets into a cloud of smoke, gas, fire, and ash in the direction of the enemy hoping to hit the enemy. Being on the guns was the most traumatizing assignment that Otto Dix ever served soley because he had survived it. “I had to experience how someone beside me suddenly falls over and is dead and the bullet has hit him sparsely. I had to experience that quite directly several times. I wanted it. I am therefore not a pacifist at all – or am I?” (Otto Dix, 1954) At the...
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