Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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  4-Dix

Otto Dix, Selbstbildnis als Soldat (Self-Portrait as a Soldier), 1914, ink and watercolour on paper, on both sides, 68 x 53.5 cm, Municipal Gallery, Stuttgart.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.
 

4-Dix

Otto Dix, Selbstbildnis mit Artillerie-Helm (Self-Portrait Wearing a Gunner's Helmet), 1914, ink and watercolour on paper, on both sides, 68 x 53.5 cm, Municipal Gallery, Stuttgart.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.

 
The fighting men
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4 - Otto Dix

Otto Dix (1891-1969) painted himself twice on the same piece of paper thus producing one of the most important works to come out of the Great War. Immediately - even before experiencing the front line -Dix takes an ambivalent stance, both epic and painful. The Self-Portrait as a Soldier, lighted by reds and the white reserve, is a celebration of strength and violence verging on savagery. It can be seen as the quintessence of the image of war, proclaiming the necessity of the struggle and the intoxication of destruction with no remorse or regrets. On the other side, the Self-Portrait as a Gunner is in opposition to this over-simplified interpretation, with the all-pervasive black, the shadow around the helmeted head, the worried look and the stark contrast between the warlike symbols of the gold facings against a background of night and death. Despite his youth and his attraction to the war as an experience of the unknown, Dix is not unaware of the horror of war, the appalling daily chronicle of which he later did drawings and etchings. This same ambiguity can also be found in his Self-Portrait as Mars (1915).
 

 

 
4-Dix" We left the schoolrooms, the school desks and benches, and the few short weeks of instruction had bonded us into one great body burning with enthusiasm. Having grown up in an age of security, we all had a nostalgia for the unusual great perils. The war thus seized hold of us like strong liquor. It was under a hail of flowers that we left, drunk on roses and blood. Without a doubt, the war offered us grandeur, strength and gravity. It seemed to us like a virile exploit: the joyous combats of infantrymen in the meadows where blood fell like dew on the flowers. "

Ernst Jünger, Storms of Steel, Paris, Christian Bourgois, 1970.