Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE LONDON COLLECTION
Otto Dix (1891-1969)

Weibliche Leichen (Anatomie Dresden-Friedrichstadt)

Details
Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Weibliche Leichen (Anatomie Dresden-Friedrichstadt)
signed and dated 'Dix 22' (lower right)
oil on canvas laid down on board
18 3/8 x 24 1/2 in. (46.6 x 62.3 cm.)
Painted in 1922
Provenance
Anonymous sale, Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg, 6 June 1974, lot 375.
Galerie Klihm, Munich, by 1978.
Galerie Valentien, Stuttgart, by 1983
Private collection, Germany; sale, Christie's, London, 7 October 1999, lot 190.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
H. E. Kleiner-Natrop & F. Löffler, "Die Medizin im Werke von Otto Dix", in Personal- und Vorlesungsverzeichnis der Medizinischen Akademie Karl Gustav Carus, Dresden, 1968, p. 16 (illustrated pl. 11).
F. Löffler, Otto Dix 1891-1969, Oeuvre der Gemälde, Recklinghausen, 1981, no. 3 (illustrated; incorrectly catalogued as 'oil on paper').
Exhibited
Berlin, Galerie Nierendorf, Otto Dix, September - December 1966, no. 39, p. 27 (illustrated).
Stuttgart, Galerie der Stadt, Otto Dix zum 80, Geburtstag, October - November 1971, no. 52 (incorrectly catalogued as 'oil on paper'); this exhibition later travelled to Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, February - April 1971.
London, Institute of Contemporary Art, Berlin, a Critical View of Ugly Realism 20s-70s, November 1978 - January 1979 (illustrated).
Stuttgart, Galerie Valentien, Otto Dix, Gema¨lde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, October 1983, no. II, p. 14 (illustrated; incorrectly catalogued as 'oil on paper').
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Otto Dix, 1891-1969, June - July 1985, no. 29, p. 52 (incorrectly catalogued as 'oil on paper').
Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, Otto Dix, August - October 1985, no. 275.
Stuttgart, Galerie der Stadt, Otto Dix, Zum 100, September - November 1991, no. 1922.3, p. 332 (incorrectly catalogued as 'oil on paper'); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Nationalgalerie, November 1991 - February 1992.
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Im Blickfeld George Grosz, "John, der Frauenmo¨rder", October - December 1993, p. 22 (illustrated pl. 14).
Tokyo, Eine Krise der Kunst, Entartete Kunst im Dritten Reich, 1995, no. 34; this exhibition later travelled to Kanagawa Kenritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, August -September 1995; Miyagi-ken Bijutsukan, September -November 1995; Ko¯chi Kenritsu Bijutsukan, November - December 1995; Yamaguchi Kenritsu Bijutsukan, December 1995 - January 1996.
Milan, Fondazione Antonio Mazzotta, Otto Dix, March - June 1997, p. 79.
Paris, Musée Maillol, Allemagne, les années noires, October 2007 - February 2008, p. 241 (illustrated p. 181).
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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Antoine Lebouteiller
Antoine Lebouteiller

Lot Essay

"I'm such a realist....that I have to see everything with my own eyes, in order to confirm that that is the way it is....I have to experience all of life's depths. That's why I volunteered for war."(Dix quoted in Otto Dix, Exh. cat., London, 1992, p. 78)

Executed in 1922 Weibliche Leichen (Anatomie Dresden-Freidrichstadt) (Female Corpses - Anatomy Dresden Friedrichstadt) is an intimate and powerfully expressive depiction of the corpses of two women lying on a slab in the local morgue.

In the aftermath of the First World War in which he had served for four years on both Eastern and Western Fronts, Dix became a frequent visitor to the Friedrichstadt morgue attached to his local hospital. Here, he made painstakingly detailed anatomical studies of human internal organs with what many of the staff of the hospital recalled as an obsessive if not perverse relish. In disciplining himself to the undertaking of this macabre self-dictated course in human anatomy Dix seems to have quenched two polemical needs within himself; the satisfying his own obsessive curiosity for seeing things "the way they really are " and also the "exorcising" of many of the traumatic events he had witnessed during his time at the front.

"You don't notice as a young man," Dix later commented on the after effects of his war experience, "that you were after all, badly affected." while at the same time insisting that, "You have to see things the way they are. You have to be able to say yes to the human manifestations that exist and will always exist.....I portrayed states, states that the war brought about, and the results of war as states."(quoted in Otto Dix im Selbstbildnis, D. Schmidt, Berlin 1981, p. 279.)

As much as the war experience, its traumatic aftermath and the catastrophic social and economic degeneration during the first years of the Weimar Republic prompted Dix, to develop an art that exposed the reality of things without, as much as possible, judging them. In this respect and in purely formal terms, such great later works as large oil painting The Trench (1923) and the epic cycle of etchings Der Krieg owe a significant debt to the works Dix made in the Friedrichstadt morgue.

In Weibliche Leichen Dix presents the cold reality of two dead bodies. The fact that these are two female bodies - one young the other old - suggests associations with one of the central themes of Dix's art of this period; that of the Prostitute as both a victim of society and of the violent lust of the sex-murderer. However, unlike many of his works of this period, here the connection is not made explicit, the cold reality of the dead bodies is left to speak for itself . Stylistically, Weibliche Leichen is one of the last of Dix's "grey" paintings.

"In 1919/20 I began to paint everything completely grey," Dix explained, because it came closest to my experience, to what I saw - the grey streets, the grey people. It was also, a certain extent in contradiction to the enormous bright colours of the Expressionists.... I said to myself: but it isn't really brightly coloured. It's all much darker, the tones are all much more subdued, much simpler. In short, I wanted to show things just as they really are." (op.cit., p. 103)

Painted with large expressive gestural brushstrokes that recall Dix's most Expressionistic work of 1918/19 Dix's mastery of his medium also displays a tender if somewhat playful attention to detail in this clearly lovingly crafted work. Somewhat ironically and with a sense of black humour not at all unusual for a war veteran like Dix, Weibliche Leichen reveals the artist delighting in the paradox of a sensuous and animated use of oil being used to depict an inanimate and macabre subject . "I wasn't at all interested in depicting ugliness." Dix asserted, "Everything I've ever seen is beautiful." (Ibid, p.149.)

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