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

Tropische Nacht

Details
Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Tropische Nacht
signed, dated and numbered 'DIX 22/138' (lower right); inscribed and numbered 'Tropische Nacht' (on the reverse)
gouache, watercolour and pen and India ink on paper
19¼ x 14¾ in. (49.9 x 37.5 cm.)
Executed in 1922
Provenance
Galerie Nierendorf, Cologne, by whom acquired directly from the artist in 1922 (no. 1024).
Ketterer Kunst, Munich, 29 November 1972, lot 274.
Acquired by the present owner in the 1970s.
Literature
Archiv für Bildende Kunst im Germanischen Nationalmuseum no. I.C382.
I. Walther (ed.), Otto Dix 1891-1969, Leben und Werk, Cologne, 1988 (illustrated p. 116).
S. Pfäffle, Otto Dix, Werkverzeichnis der Aquarelle und Gouachen, Stuttgart, 1991, no. A.1922/75 (illustrated p. 160).
Exhibited
Cologne, Galerie Nierendorf, 1922.
Ravensburg, Städtische Galerie Altes Theater, Expressionismus, Malerei und Grafik, 1980, p. 14 (illustrated p. 15).
Montrouge, Salon Art Contemporain, Otto Dix, 1984, no. 58.
Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, Otto Dix 1891-1969, August - October 1985, no. 299, p. 309 (illustrated p. 172).
Villingen-Schwenningen, Städtische Galerie, Otto Dix, zum 99, 1990, no. 76 (illustrated p. 112).
Stuttgart, Galerie der Stadt, Otto Dix 1891-1969, September - November 1991, no. 68, p. 144 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Nationalgalerie and London, Tate Gallery.
Ravensburg, Schloss Achberg, Expressive Kunst der Jahre 190-1925, May - October 1996, no. 3 (illustrated p. 127).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Tropische Nacht (Tropical Night) is one of a significant group of heavily-worked and richly-coloured watercolours depicting a lone sailor wandering through the bordellos of an exotic foreign country at night that Dix painted in 1922. Such is the closeness in the composition and theme of these works that it seems likely that Dix saw them as preparation for an oil painting on the subject.

The Surabaya- Johnny-type sailor in these works - tattooed, bronzed from his travels and smoking a pipe - is usually also a self-portrait; a depiction of Dix in the guise of the lone and lusty male figure eagerly sampling the pleasures of the harbour. These 'pleasures', Dix makes clear in these pictures, come in a full range of types and in all shapes, colours and sizes. Doused overall by a pervasive red colouring evocative of the tropical sunset, the sailor's own state of arousal after being at sea for months and also that of the district through which he is wandering, these paintings are in one respect clearly a manifestation of the artist's own erotic fantasies.

At the time that they were made, Dix was living, impoverished in Dresden during the height of the inflationary period in Germany when poverty, malnutrition and a pervasive sense of decay were the widespread truths of daily existence. During this difficult period, Dix had fallen in love with Martha Koch whom he was later to marry and was travelling frequently between Dresden and Dusseldorf to see her. Dix had wooed Martha under the guise of his playful alter-ego 'Jimmy' a free-rolling, smartly-dressed dancing dandy and man-about-town not unlike the sailor-character he portrays himself as in these works.

Dix's art of this period is strongly characterized by the notion of the twin forces of sex and death operating in direct conjunction with one another throughout all levels of life. In the same way that he catalogued the pervasive decay of society all around him in his searingly accurate depictions of emaciated and impoverished mothers and street urchins on the grey colourless streets of Dresden at this time, the colour-drenched pictures of a dreamed-of foreign land of these works are infused with an invigorating sense of rich plenitude and erotic vitality that operates in direct contrast to these works. Dix, is always, as realistic in his depiction of such imagined scenes or fantasies as in his paintings of contemporary Dresden, The women populating his 'tropical night' are not in any way sentimentalised but are realistic-looking brothel types of the kind that Dix liked to select as his models from the Dresden Academy life-classes or of the type he had come across on a visit to the Reeperbahn Hamburg in 1921.

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