The artist’s family, 1927

Otto Dix was one of the protagonists of “New Objectivity”, a style already thus referred to in 1925. During and after World War I, he initially participated in the Dada revolts, but then came out in favour of an art without false feelings – and against one of deception or escape into illusions. A native of Gera, the painter focussed on the people of his time. But what does it mean to paint “objectively”? Dix took the individual as a point of departure to arrive at a type. His works are accordingly never objective in the sense of pure documentation – he often exaggerates his figures’ features to the point of hideousness or evil.

In this painting of his own family, Dix not only employed the old-masterly technique of glaze painting on wood, but also made reference to old altarpieces. His wife Martha presides over the scene like the Virgin Mary. She bends intimately over the newborn boy who, like a Christ Child, forms the centre of the scene. From behind, his sister Nelly pushes forward a symbolic carnation; the father’s head pushes its way in from the side to beam joyfully at the baby. The family is “heil” (whole, in one piece) in the way the Biblical family was “heilig” (holy). Did the family mean happiness for Dix? In any case he did not paint the scene in a flattering manner, but crudely, as in a Dutch genre painting, a quality that also applies to his depiction of himself: unkempt, his skull coarse, his teeth slightly out of place.

© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018


Oil on wood
80 × 50 cm
Inv. No. SG 2056
Property of the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

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