Otto Dix

Annie Lee | Jan 28, 2024

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Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix († July 25, 1969 in Singen am Hohentwiel) was a German painter and graphic artist of the 20th century. Otto Dix's work is characterized by stylistic diversity, but remains committed to realism in his basic artistic attitude. Best known are those of his paintings, which are attributed to the New Objectivity (Verism).

Childhood and youth

Otto Dix was born in the village of Untermhaus near Gera, the son of Ernst Franz Dix (1862-27 July 1943) and his wife Pauline Louise Amann (1864-26 August 1953). His father worked as a molder in an iron foundry. The mother, a seamstress, was musically and artistically interested. She was a cousin of the painter Fritz Amann. When he sat for him as a child, Dix had the desire to become a painter. Thus Otto Dix, who always saw himself as a working-class child, grew up in simple but not destitute and by no means uneducated circumstances.

After the drawing teacher Ernst Schunke had greatly encouraged him during his school years, Dix completed an apprenticeship from 1905 to 1909 with the decorative painter Carl Senff from Gera. A scholarship from the Prince of Reuss enabled him to study at the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts (1910-1914) under professors Johann Nikolaus Türk (1872-1942) and Richard Guhr, among others. He studied the history of painting and studied the Old Masters in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie; in parallel, he created late Impressionist and Expressionist works. Even before World War I, he turned to the avant-garde and experimented with Cubist and Futurist forms.

World War I and the Weimar Republic

Dix volunteered for military service during the First World War. He served in the field artillery and as a machine gunner on the Western and Eastern Fronts. His last achieved rank was vice sergeant. During the war, he produced futuristic drawings and gouaches that addressed aspects of the war effort.

After returning to Dresden, he took up studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, not least for pragmatic and financial reasons; as a master student of Otto Gussmann, he was able to move into a free studio in the Polytechnic School on Antonsplatz in the summer of 1919. At the same time, he was active as a freelance artist: as a founding member of the Dresden Secession Group 1919, he participated in group exhibitions in Dresden and throughout Germany. Since 1919 he was in contact with the Berlin Dadaists. 1919

In the fall of 1922, after losing his Dresden studio in rotation, Dix moved to Düsseldorf, where he was given a master student's studio by Heinrich Nauen at the academy there. The workshop director Wilhelm Herberholz taught Dix graphic techniques. he married Martha Koch née Lindner (1895-1985), four years his junior, whom he had met in 1921. She was divorced from the urologist Hans Koch and had two children.

Dix moved in the environment of the gallery owner Johanna Ey and joined the artists' association Das Junge Rheinland, then the Rheingruppe. In 1923, Hans Friedrich Secker purchased Schützengraben for the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, which became the sensation of the newly opened Neue Galerie. Fierce discussions about its political tendency now dominated the feuilletons. In 1924 - on the occasion of the anti-war year - the painting was exhibited at the Prussian Academy of Arts. On the same occasion, the art dealer Carl Nierendorf published Dix's graphic portfolio Der Krieg with fifty etchings.

In 1925 Dix moved to Berlin; in that year he also took part in the traveling exhibition Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), which gave its title to the new realistic tendencies in painting. His work was to have a decisive influence on the art movement. The year 1926 records two important solo exhibitions: at the Neumann-Nierendorf Gallery in Berlin and at the Thannhauser Gallery in Munich. He was also prominently represented at the International Art Exhibition in Dresden, a precursor exhibition to the documenta in Kassel. After meeting Arno Breker at the latter's art dealer Alfred Flechtheim in Berlin in 1926, Breker designed a portrait bust of Dix.

From 1927 until 1933 Dix held a professorship at the Art Academy in Dresden as the successor to Otto Gussmann (1869-1926); in the meantime he also belonged to the extended board of the Deutscher Künstlerbund. After a series of large-format portraits, he created in 1927

National Socialism

After the National Socialists seized power in 1933, Dix was one of the first art professors to be dismissed, and the property in Düsseldorf-Unterbilk, which had only recently been registered in his name, was forcibly auctioned off. Dix initially tried to maintain himself as a freelance painter in Dresden; there, for example, he still produced the painting The Seven Deadly Sins, which is reminiscent of the Old Masters. In the fall of 1933, however, he retreated to southern Germany to escape the defamation of National Socialist artists.

There he lived first in the castle Randegg, which was owned by Hans Koch, and from 1936 in his own house in Hemmenhofen on Lake Constance. He drew and painted the landscape of the Hegau and the shore landscape of the Untersee on the (Höri peninsula). He remained present in the German art scene until 1936, even exhibiting in Berlin as well as at the last annual exhibition of the subsequently banned Deutscher Künstlerbund in July 1936 at the Hamburg Kunstverein. In 1937, many of his works were shown by the National Socialists in the Munich propaganda exhibition "Degenerate Art" and defamed, among other things, as "painted military sabotage." Dix was now no longer allowed to exhibit: 260 of his works were subsequently confiscated from German museums.

Two weeks after the assassination attempt on Hitler in the Munich Bürgerbräukeller, the Gestapo temporarily imprisoned Otto Dix in 1939. Dix then retreated into inner emigration, but continued to receive private commissions. For example, he painted a depiction of St. Christopher in the Old Master style for the owner of the Köstritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei. Dix was a frequent visitor to Chemnitz during this period, where two families, that of the dentist Köhler and that of the margarine manufacturers Max and Fritz Niescher, supported him with invitations, commissions and the purchase of works. In Albstadt-Ebingen, the industrialist couple Walther Groz and Lore Groz also supported him by purchasing paintings.

In 1945, Dix was drafted into the Volkssturm and became a French prisoner of war. He was sent to a camp in Colmar in Alsace, where many of the 6000 prisoners died. When it was recognized who he was, Dix was allowed to work as an artist in the camp. In February 1946 he returned to Hemmenhofen.

Postwar and death

In 1945 Dix turned from old-master glaze painting back to modern alla prima painting and returned to the expressionist painting style of his early days. After 1945, Dix remained an outsider in the German states, which were also becoming more and more distant from each other artistically: He could identify neither with the Socialist Realism of the GDR nor with the abstract postwar art of the FRG. Nevertheless, he received high recognition and numerous honors in both states. Many works of the late work are characterized by Christian themes.

After the war, Dix regularly stayed in Dresden to work. He had a studio there, and had his lithographs printed at the Siebdruckerei für Bildende Künste. He had a large part of these works created in Dresden distributed by the art dealer NOVA of his friend Horst Kempe, who also arranged the purchase of Dix's pictures by Dresden museums. In Dresden he also had his "second family", Käthe König and their daughter Katharina (* 1939). His wife Martha continued to live with their three children in the large house in Hemmenhofen. When in 1949, in connection with the reoccupation of a vacant painting professorship at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, the name Otto Dix was proposed by Willi Baumeister and the Academy Council demanded the submission of work samples, Dix firmly refused.

In 1959 he received the Grand Federal Cross of Merit and the Cornelius Prize of the city of Düsseldorf. In 1950, he was unsuccessfully nominated for the National Prize of the GDR by the Gera Cultural Association.

In the 1960s, Dix organized numerous exhibitions and received honors and awards in both parts of Germany. On the occasion of his 75th birthday in 1966, he was made an honorary citizen of Gera, and in 1967 he was awarded the Lichtwark Prize in Hamburg and the Martin Andersen Nexö Art Prize in Dresden. In 1967 he also received the Hans Thoma Prize and in 1968 the Rembrandt Prize of the Goethe Foundation in Salzburg.

Dix died on July 25, 1969, after suffering a second stroke in Singen am Hohentwiel. His grave is in Hemmenhofen on Lake Constance.


Dix married Martha Koch, called "Mutzli," (1895-1985), née Lindner, on February 1, 1923. She had been the wife of urologist, dermatologist, art collector and patron Hans Koch (1881-1952) since 1915, when Dix met and fell in love with her during his first portrait commission of her husband in Düsseldorf. According to Martha Dix, at that time she was already living in a kind of marriage of three with her sister Maria, whom Koch had actually wanted to marry. Koch had therefore encouraged the relationship with Dix in order to be able to marry Maria after a divorce from Martha. Koch had decided in favor of Martha in 1915 because he knew that Maria could not have children.

The divorce took place in 1922, Martha's marriage to Dix on February 1, 1923, a few months before the birth of their daughter Nelly (* June 14, 1923). Hans Koch had previously married Martha's sister Maria Elisabeth Lindner (1890-1969) and thus became the painter's brother-in-law from the ex-husband of his wife Martha. Koch and Maria Lindner adopted Martha's two children with Koch into their new marriage: Martin (9.6.1917-2010) and Hana (1920-2006) - who apparently only learned as adults that "Aunt Martha" was their mother.

Martha and Otto Dix had three children and one adopted child:

Käthe König (1901-1981) was a court clerk in Dresden, a model and, since 1927, Otto Dix's lover. Against the will of the painter, she gave birth to their daughter Katharina on October 5, 1939 in Dresden. Although Dix had lost his professorship in Dresden in 1933 and had moved to southern Germany, he kept his studio at Kesselsdorfer Strasse 11 in Dresden Löbtau until 1943 and from 1947 to 1966 for annual work visits and visits to his Dresden "second family". When Dix was arrested by the Gestapo in November 1939, Käthe König, as a court usher, was apparently able to make documents disappear at court that allegedly incriminated Dix, so that Dix had to be released after a few days for lack of evidence. The extensive correspondence between Dix and Käthe König is blocked for publication until 2040 for reasons of personal privacy.

Dix is considered an excellent draftsman and left behind more than 6000 drawings and sketches. The most extensive collections of works are in the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and the Museum Gunzenhauser in Chemnitz. The world's largest collection of works on paper is held by the Albstadt Gallery.

The written estate has been in the German Art Archive in the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg since 1976. The pictorial estate is in the archives of the Otto Dix Foundation in Bevaix (Switzerland).

The studio and residential building in Hemmenhofen on the Höri peninsula on Lake Constance, where the painter and draftsman lived and worked from 1936 to 1969, was sold to the association founded in December 2009 with the non-profit Otto Dix House Foundation. The operation was taken over as Museum Haus Dix by the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart as a branch. The city of Stuttgart, the municipality of Gaienhofen, the district of Constance and sponsors together provided 1.5 million euros to save the house, which was in serious need of renovation. The house had last been owned by the artist's granddaughter, Bettina Dix-Pfefferkorn.

In 2011, four previously lost watercolors from the painter's estate surfaced, including the watercolors Nächtens and Soubrette. A preliminary study for the work Wintermärchen, which had been lost since 1933, had already been discovered a year earlier.

In December 2012, six large-scale murals by the painter were discovered during renovation work in a basement room of his home in Hemmenhofen that was used as a library. They are drawings that Dix had created for a carnival celebration on February 19, 1966. They depict a monster with trumpet trunks, a jazz band and figures from the Alemannic carnival such as the Hänsele. Furthermore, there are scenes from the movie Des Pudels Kern (1958) with Alec Guinness. Known until now were only smaller paintings in the corridor of the cellar, which were created for the same occasion.

In November 2013, it became known that the Schwabing art find also included a previously unknown self-portrait by Dix



  1. Otto Dix
  2. Otto Dix
  3. Dix Otto Wilhelm Heinrich - Detailseite - LEO-BW. Abgerufen am 5. September 2023.
  4. a b Otto Dix Biographie. In: Schloss Randegg. Abgerufen am 5. Februar 2022.
  5. Theo Piegler: Ernst Schunke. In: Verein für vogtländische Geschichte, Volks- und Landeskunde e. V. (Hrsg.): Berühmte Vogtländer. B 1. Plauen 1997, S. 91.
  6. Fleischer, Simone: Der Künstler und der Krieg. Die Frontstationen von Otto Dix im Ersten Weltkrieg im Kontext historischer Daten und der Truppenbewegung des XII. Reservekorps der 3. (königlich-sächsischen) Armee. In: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden u.a. (Hrsg.): Otto Dix. Der Krieg - Das Dresdner Triptychon. Sandstein Verlag, Dresden 2014, S. 15.
  7. ^ "Otto Dix | German artist". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  8. ^ Tate. "Five things to know: Otto Dix – List". Tate. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  9. 1,0 1,1 «Otto Dix 50ster Todestag Gedenkstunde». (Γερμανικά) 29  Απριλίου 2019.
  10. Karcher 1988, pp. 21–24.
  11. Karcher 1988, p. 251.
  12. Conzelmann, 1959, p. 50

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