Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Otto Dix, Prager Straße (Prague Street), 1920, oil and collage on canvas, 101 x 81 cm, Galerie der Stadt, Stuttgart.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.

The death

98 - Otto Dix

In 1920, at the time of the first international fair in Berlin, Dix exhibited Kriegsversehrte (mit Selbstbildnis) (War Cripples) (with Self Portrait), a frieze of 'broken faces' in the street, amputated, disfigured, blinded. Prague Street and Die Skatspieler (Skat Players), both painted in 1920, resemble this work which is all the more emblematic as it was seized and probably destroyed by the Nazis in 1933. It depicts weakened men with artificial limbs, horrific scars and grafts, and the grotesque world of veterans some of whom have been reduced to begging and others exhibit their wounds as proof of their bravery during the war. In Prague Street, their infirmities are emphasised by their nearness to a woman in a tight pink dress with a dog. There are wigs, corsets and artificial limbs in the shop window. A wooden hand holds a stick. The painting is balanced between neutral precision and satirical distortion and is not without political allusions. Near the legless cripple on a skateboard, Dix has pasted a tract or leaflet marked 'Juden raus!' (Jews out!). War veterans' leagues were particularly sensitive to ultra-nationalist propaganda and anti-Semitism was an early component, even before it became Nazi dogma. At the same time, this painting gives us an analysis of German society after the defeat, and foreshadows what it was to become during the inter-war period.