9 / Portraits
|Artist / Origin||
Otto Dix (German, 1891–1969)
Period: 1900 CE - 2010 CE
Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on cardboard
|Dimensions||H: 28 ¾ in. (73 cm.), W: 21 ½ in. (54.6 cm.)|
|Credit||© 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn|
|Susan SidlauskasAssociate Professor of Art History, Rutgers University|
Ackermann, Marion, and Daniel Spanke. Match: Otto Dix and the Art of Portraiture. Köln: DuMont, 2009.
Apel, Dora. “‘Heroes’ and ‘Whores’: The Politics of Gender in Weimar Antiwar Imagery.” Art Bulletin 79.3 (September 1997): 366–384.
Gay, Peter. Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.
McGreevy, Linda F. Bitter Witness: Otto Dix and the Great War. Bern and New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2003.
Rewald, Sabine, Ian Buruma, and Matthias Eberle, eds. Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.
Rowe, Dorothy. Representing Berlin: Sexuality and the City in Imperial and Wiemar Germany. Aldershot, Hants, UK: Ashgate, 2003.
Wood, Paul. “Realisms and Realities.” In Realism, Rationalism, Surrealism: Art between the Wars, edited by Briony Fer et al., 292–297. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993.
Lady with Mink and Veil
German artist Otto Dix was part of the Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, movement centered in Berlin during the years between the two World Wars.
Life was difficult in the country that had lost the First World War, and the Weimar Republic government was dysfunctional. Nonetheless, the period also ushered in a new artistic freedom. Artists like Dix, his colleague George Grosz, and others associated with the Neue Sachlichkeit confronted the decade’s social unrest, widespread unemployment, and poverty with aggressively political artwork. They gave expression to the terrible social suffering they saw around them by injecting the grotesque into their paintings. Dix, for instance, produced numerous images of wretched war amputees and disheveled, ghastly prostitutes—portraits of social types that focused not on creating actual likenesses, but on exploring deeper cultural “truths” about life in all its ugliness and squalor.
In Dix’s painting Lady with Mink and Veil, the viewer confronts a figure who has had a hard life. The woman in the painting is likely a war widow, fallen on hard times and forced to turn to prostitution. Her makeup is garish and her clothing is rather too revealing. Dix has given her sickly and pallid skin, sagging breasts, and a ratty fur stole. The chair she sits on is painted with a clarity and strength that she cannot match. In one respect, the veil is ironic, as it provides a kind of modest respectability at the same time that the strap of her dress has fallen off almost completely. Ultimately, though, the veil is an integral part of her costume, shielding her misshapen face from too much scrutiny as she, perhaps, advertises to clients. To create the veil, Dix dipped an actual veil in paint and pressed it to the canvas to transfer the pattern. The effect of this technique is that the paint, indeed, acts like a veil, obscuring the details of the brushed-in face beneath.