Tate Liverpool brings Otto Dix drawings to UK for the first time
Private drawings by the German artist Otto Dix go on display for the first time in the UK in Tate Liverpool’s upcoming exhibition Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919 – 1933, opening 23 June – 15 October 2017. The drawings depict fantasy creatures and animals, shedding new light on the artist who is best known for his harshly realistic depictions of war and German society.
Dated 1922 the 6 pencil drawings of an imagined world were made with the help of Martin and Hana Koch, the children of Dr Hans Koch and his wife Martha. Drawn on the back of medical prescription papers the fantastic creatures are each annotated with a name – including Turkey Vulture, Giant Snake and Argentinian Venomous Scorpion – written by the children themselves or by Dix using child-like handwriting.
Made just four years after Dix served in the German army during the First World War the display of these uncharacteristically playful works provide stark contrast to Dix’s uncompromising depiction of German life. He commented in 1919, ‘I want to come very close to our present reality.… I need the connection to the sensual world, and the courage to expose ugliness and life undiluted.’
Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool said: ‘We’re delighted to bring these important and fascinating works to the UK for the first time. Dix was heavily influenced by the horrors he saw in the war as well as the radical political and social extremes of the Weimar Republic. His artistic intentions were to offer an unflinching portrait of society yet these lyrical drawings offer a glimpse into the private world of the artist.’
The drawings as well as a picture book he made for the children will be brought to the UK for the first time and exhibited alongside Dix’s more familiar paintings with highlights including Portrait of the Photographer Hugo Erfurth with Dog 1923, Self-Portrait with Easel 1926 and Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin 1927. Also on display will be a large group of lesser known watercolours and The War 1924 a series of 50 etchings made as a reaction to and representation of the profound effect of his personal experiences of fighting in the First World War.
Significantly these drawings were also made during a key moment in Dix’s personal life. He first met Martha and Dr Hans Koch in 1921 when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of the doctor, a Düsseldorf art collector and patron. While working on the portrait he fell in love with Hans’s wife Martha and the two became a couple and went onto marry. Unconventionally their relationship was welcome to Hans, who had been involved in an affair with Martha’s sister Maria for some time. A portrait of the children, commissioned by Maria, will also be exhibited in the exhibition. The painting entitled Hanali und Muggeli was painted by Otto Dix, known to the children as ‘Uncle Jimmy’.
The work of Otto Dix will be presented in Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919 – 1933, an exhibition that presents the faces of Germany between the two World Wars seen through the eyes of painter Otto Dix (1891–1969) and photographer August Sander (1876–1964). The exhibition brings together two artists whose works document the glamour and misery of the Weimar Republic. Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919 – 1933 presents 300 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs by the two artists.