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Branded a ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, Otto Dix is now considered to be Germany’s greatest 20th century realist painter. Exhibitions at the Tate Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are currently marking the centenary of his birth. Andrew Gibbon Williams reports.

Sometimes our conception of the gist of an artist becomes too firmly entrenched through over-familiarity with his most famous works. This is the case with Otto Dix. the German realist painter. the centenary ofwhose birth is being celebrated a year too late this year. A major retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London will contain all the well-known images— for example, two great triptychs which expose the short-lived Weimar Republic in all its brazen decadence and a show ofworks on paper in Edinburgh is guaranteed to broaden our appreciation ofthis interesting artist. Both exhibitions have been selected by Keith Hartley. assistant keeper at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, who specialises in 20th century German art.

The Edinburgh show is especially interesting because in it Dix comes across as not at all the man we thought him to be: the cutting satirist is subsumed by the traditional draughtsman. In some ways the graphic work produced around and during the First World War is the least interesting by virtue of the fact that a clutch of artists were working in the same vein basically adapting French cubism to their gloomy dramatic ends. There are several drawings of shattered villages and stagnant trenches. The contemporary viewer. I would guess, is hardly likely to find Dix‘s despondent, apocalyptic vision particularly riveting. Anyway. English war artists did the same thing in a more durable, contemplative way.

Far more vital and tangy are the portrait drawings of intellectuals Dix produced in the 205

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‘In Remenihtange at Great Times. 1923

are two treatments of the St Christopher legend in generation, the Ovemhelming influence 0f Picasso

' . . . which his knowledge of northern European seems to have Pen/cried hls natural talent. An ink 2333125Ziiiifrfici‘ifi'sffii'li'insiiféé‘ééiiiféi'fd Remittancemas‘c’sisguimp'ai” Wi‘e'CO‘m‘.“ “mmimaw‘éT-gfii”“£2? “firmwares: to compelling effect. A kind of troubled fatalism is Ofexoilc flowers are cv'danc 9f an anO-ymcm m its gang den'ess. bg SC“ I is? cas'nti' er d n discernible in man Ofthe subsets P t. I l analysmg naturalforms'which is whollyin tune 0"“? . 35'805— straya ac 0 .Conwc 10" a“

y 1 ' at ICU at y with the Germanic tradition ofclose observation. P3551001" 3“ Old man Way PaSt his heydaY- None Of

fine is the portrait of Ivar von Lucken, although

. . . , this, ofcourse, diminishes Dix’s stature which is Dix is equally good at capturing the chic

best appreciated by viewing this exhibition in

insouciance of a svelte flapper. Dix also pulls off ‘Like many 0' his generation, the conjunction with the paintings at the Tate.

the difficuilt trigk of capturing the delicate overwhelming influence of Picasso seems

vulnerabi ity 0 babies. even (and this must be rare - .

in the annals of art), focusing on an actual birth. to have perverted ms natural talent Otto Dix: The Dresden Collection of Works on One of the most unexpected elements in the Paper is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern

Show is Dix’s Close SIUdy 0f German Old MaSICTS- Dix lived on until 1966 but, it must be said, that Art. 50129 Feb-10 May, With general DUr

'l'wo tree-stumps were rendered during the 305 the work produced during his post-war period is retrospective showing at the Tate Gallery, London,

With the calligraphic intensity of Durer and there something of a disappointment. Like many of his 11 Mar—1 7 May.


52 The List 28 February 12 March '1992