Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix was born on December 2, 1891. He was a renowned German painter and printmaker who was recognized for his ability throw realism on the canvas.
Otto spent most of his childhood in Germany. He was the son of Franz who worked in an iron factory. Otto’s mother on the other hand was a seamstress who used to write poetry in her youth. Hence, he was in the vicinity of an artistic mindset from a very young age. His cousin, Fritz Amann, was also a painter. Otto used to spend a lot of time in his company. Consequently, he had the motivation and guidance from very early age. Even his primary school teacher encouraged him to pursue his artistic inklings.
Between 1906 and 1910, under the supervision of painter Carl Senff, he created his first landscapes. Soon after he joined in Dresden Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden.
Otto was an active participant in the First World War, siding with the Germans. In December 1918, he was eventually discharged from the army.
Otto was gravely moved by the scenes he saw during the war. In fact he is speculated to have experienced a recurring nightmare in which he was surrounded by flaming homes. The depictions of these various events can be spotted in a number of places in his work.
It happened in the end of 1918 that Otto raced back to Gera before coming back to Dresden in the following year. Soon after, he co-founded the Dresdner Sezession group along with his teacher Conrad Felixmüller. During the time, his work was passing through an expressionist phase.
Otto also actively contributed in the Neue Sachlichkeit exhibition which took place in Mannheim in 1925. His work threw light on subjects holding immense pertinence to the German society, namely violence and prostitution.
On return of the Nazis to power in Germany, they immediately removed Otto from his position of an art teacher. Hence, he had to shift to the southwest of Germany. Much of his work was burned during the time.
Otto Dix, like his contemporaries, was made to join the Nazi government’s Reich Chamber of Fine Arts. It was compulsory for all the artists to take part and Otto specifically had to pledge not to paint anything even marginally controversial. Yet, he continued living by his beliefs and painted whatever pleased him. “Degennerate” was the label given to him. Perhaps, it was the pressure that made him keep much of his work away from the public eye which was subsequently found as late as 2012. It is speculated that his art dealer had hidden them for him.
In 1939, he was alleged of being involved in a plot against Hitler and hence was arrested. Soon after, he was released. During World War II, Otto was put in prison by the French troops and was only released when the war ended at February 1946.
In his final years, Otto returned to Dresden where he stayed till 1966. Post war, most of Otto’s works was religious allegories. He was awarded the Grand Merit Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1950. He was also nominated for the National Prize of the GDR but he did not win it. He, however, did win the Lichtwark Prize in Hamburg and the Martin Andersen Nexo Art Prize in Dresden. The glorious occasion happened to mark his 75th birthday in 1967.
On July 25, 1969, Otto Dix died because of a stroke. He is buried by Lake Constance. Otto’s three children, a daughter and son survived him.