Otto Dix (1891-1969)
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Otto Dix (1891-1969)

Französisches Ehepaar (Französisches Paar)

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Französisches Ehepaar (Französisches Paar)
signed and dated 'DIX 25' (upper right)
gouache, watercolour and pen and India ink on paper
22 x 14¾ in. (56 x 37.5 cm.)
Executed in 1925
Private collection ('Frau D.').
Galerie R.N. Ketterer, Campione.
Acquired from the above by the present owners in 1973.
Archiv für Bildende Kunst, Germanischen Nationalmuseum, no. I, vol. 12.
R.N. Ketterer, Lagerkatalog Moderne Kunst, vol. VIII, 1973, no. 19 (illustrated).
B.S. Barton, Otto Dix and Die neue Sachlichkeit 1918-1925, Michigan, 1981, no. VIII B7, p. 151.
S. Pfäffle, Otto Dix, Werkverzeichnis der Aquarelle und Gouachen, Stuttgart, 1991, no. A 1925/9 (illustrated p. 204).
Berlin, Galerie Nierendorf, Otto Dix, Bilder, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Das Graphische Gesamtwerk 1913-1960, January - April 1961, no. 57 (illustrated p. 13).
West Berlin, Kongresshalle, Otto Dix, Ölgemälde 1913-1963, Aquarelle, Das graphische Werk, October 1963, no. 130.
Munich, Galerie Klihm, Otto Dix, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Radierungen 1920-1927, June - August 1970, no. 40.
Essen, Museum Folkwang, Otto Dix, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Radierfolge 'Der Krieg', December 1971 - January 1972, no. 121 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Rome, Galleria Giulia, Goethe Institut, Biblioteca Germanica.
Roman Norbert Ketterer, Campione, Moderne Kunst, September - October 1973, no. 19.
Arona, Museo d'Arte contemporanea, Fantastico Novecento ad Arona. Da Picasso a Kandinsky, July - November 2003 (illustrated p. 101).
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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Painted in 1925, this vibrant watercolour, with its outlandish and fiery vermilion-coloured background richly infusing the scene with the mood of a bordello, depicts the intense and evidently sexually-charged relationship between a man and a woman as a kind of marriage of opposites. Entitled Französisches Ehepaar (French married couple), the painting portrays a coarse and evidently lustful male leering at his partner in a kind of painterly parallel of a clichéd Parisian tango. Each figure, almost mirroring the other in their pose and in the outline of their features, stares intently at the other across the fiery background in what is clearly a volatile and passionate relationship.

The subject is highly reminiscent of one of the most common subjects in Dix's art in the 1920s, that of the Sailor and the prostitute. Indeed, the man's features in this painting and his cap and pipe closely resemble those of the stereotypical sailor (Fritz Müller aus Pieschen or The Sicilian Pirate) that Dix repeatedly painted with a prostitute or visiting a harbour-town brothel. In this, as in so much of Dix's work, the artist was expressing the coarse driving vitality of the erotic principle at work in society. His studying of Nietzsche and his war experience had confirmed for him the elemental truth about the forces of Eros and Thanatos dominating the world and the intense, timeless and ultimately necessary relationship between a prostitute and her clientele seemed a base but fitting expression of life amidst the decadence and decay of Weimar years in Germany.

With their features echoing and mirroring one another - the man's leering face drenched in passionate red, the frozen painted features of the woman set against a cool blue - this picture seems to represent the marriage of two equal opposites. In the manner of the tango - the popular dance in which the conjunction of Eros and Thanatos perhaps is most fully expressed - this portrait of a lustful French man and his fearful painted companion seems to express an entire gaudy world of fear, passion and desire.

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