Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Otto Dix, Selbstbildnis als Schieß scheibe (Self-Portrait as a Target), 1915, oil on paper, 72 x 51 cm, Otto Dix Foundation, Vienna.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.


66 - Otto Dix

The period of Expressionist self-portraits painted by Dix during the early months of the war was followed by a period of apprehension and menace. Shortly before being sent to the front, in the east and then the west, Dix painted himself as he actually was: an anonymous soldier, a young man marked out for death by his uniform, or - as the title of this painting indicates - a target. There is a purple halo round his head. The red facings on his jacket and beret make him stand out all the more and the badges seem to foreshadow the impact of bullets. Dix could not have stated more clearly the fate that he was expecting, without illusion and without the slightest hope of getting out alive.

66-Leroux" I had the suffocating sensation of unreality when my eyes fixed themselves on a human form, streaming with blood, whose leg was hanging from his body at a strange angle and who was letting out a continuous stream of hoarse cries for help as if death still had him by the throat. We dragged him to a house outside which hung the flag of the Red Cross.
What happened at that moment? The war had shown its claws and thrown aside its good-natured mask. How mysterious it all was, how impersonal! We hardly thought about the enemy, that enigmatic and evil being somewhere beyond the horizon. This episode, which was entirely new for us, had such a violent impact on our minds that we had to make a distinct effort to grasp the concept. It was like the appearance of a ghost in the middle of the afternoon. "

Ernst Jünger, Storms of Steel.