OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
1 More
OTTO DIX (1891-1969)

Laterne (Die Motten und das Licht)

OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
Laterne (Die Motten und das Licht)
signed and dated 'DIX 23' (lower left); inscribed 'Privatbesitz Nächtliche Straße' (on the reverse)
oil pastel, watercolour, brush and wash and India ink and coloured pencil on paper
28 ½ x 19 7⁄8 in. (72.4 x 50.5 cm.)
Executed in 1923
Galerie Gunzenhauser, Munich.
Acquired from the above by the late owner in March 1972.
S. Pfäffle, Otto Dix, Werkverzeichnis der Aquarelle und Gouachen, Stuttgart, 1991, no. A 1923 / 100, pp. 45, 47, 191 (illustrated p. 97; illustrated again p. 191; with incorrect medium and dimensions).
Stuttgart, Galerie der Stadt, Otto Dix, Zum 100. Geburtstag 1891-1991, September - November 1991, no. A 1923 / 100, p. 334 (with incorrect medium and dimensions); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Nationalgalerie, November 1991 - February 1992.

Brought to you by

Annie Wallington
Annie Wallington Head of Core Sales

Lot Essay

Otto Dix’s Laterne (Die Motten und das Licht) depicts four extravagantly dressed female figures, illuminated by the pale yellow light of a street lantern. Despite their flamboyant clothing, two appear scantily clad, which, along with their gaudily applied make up, suggests they are prostitutes. The eccentricity of their bright garments gives the figures a zoomorphic quality, which is particularly pronounced for the figure in the upper right of the scene, whose female physiology from the waist down is set in opposition with her birdlike head. Even more transfixing is the green and yellow drapery which hangs around the figure’s upper body in long tentacle-like tendrils, and one even seems to transform into a humanoid left arm. The other figures appear more anthropomorphic, but are still bedecked in fantastical attire, creating a whimsical and ethereal effect. The otherworldliness of the scene is enhanced by the soft glow of the streetlight which lands on the figures, revealing their presence in the murky gloom of the night.

Executed in 1923, following Dix’s move to Dusseldorf, the present lot belongs to the most significant period for the artist’s works on paper. In the three years Dix was based in Dusseldorf, his oeuvre played with the idea of beauty, straying from the traditional perceptions established by the Classical canon. Unrelentingly radical in his approach, Dix looked to accentuate the striking and sometimes outlandish features of his models, choosing reality, as opposed to idealism.

The 1920s in the Weimar Republic were a decade of glitz and glamour but also of difficulty and hardship. Following the First World War, Germany was left reeling from the catastrophic loss of lives and casualties sustained, a reality made all the more stark against the backdrop of hyper-inflation.

The destruction of the old societal order paved the way for daring modernity, artistic experimentation, and the glittering nightlife now inextricably tied to modern perceptions of the decade. It was the halcyon days of the cabaret: sex and the salacious were on sale, and the prostitute was an integral part of this economy. Indeed, high class prostitutes were able to pick up clients by streetwalking, as is depicted in Laterne.

The bitter reality of war and its consequences was a subject that fascinated Dix, and wounded former soldiers, along with prostitutes became a leading motif in his works. In fact, the street walker was in many ways a foil for the war cripple; both victims and reflections of contemporary society, whose social identity was tied up in their physical appearance. Prostitution was, to some extent, a forced result of the casualties suffered in the war, as respectable war widows sometimes had to resort to selling themselves. Dix’s 1920 work, The Skat Players (Nationalgalerie, Berlin), offers a useful male parallel - envisioning of the nighttime activities of the crippled men of the Weimar Republic, whose lives were irrevocably changed by the war. In Laterne, just as in The Skat Players, there is a single light, gleaming out against the oppressive gloom of the evening scene, which unifies the composition.

More from Impressionist and Modern Art Day and Works on Paper Sale

View All
View All