Otto Dix (1891-1969)
signed and dated 'DIX 22' (lower right); titled and numbered 'Dompteuse II' (on the reverse)
watercolor, brush and India ink and pencil on paper
25 3/8 x 18 7/8 in. (64.2 x 47.8 cm.)
Executed in 1922
Galerie für Moderne Kunst, Hanover (by 1957).
Galerie Meta Nierendorf, Berlin (by 1959).
Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin (acquired from the above, 1963).
Galleria del Levante, Munich.
Anon. sale, Ketterer Kunst, Munich, 6 June 1994, lot 61.
Marvin and Janet Fishman, Milwaukee (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby’s, London, 8 February 2005, lot 23.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
B.S. Barton, Otto Dix and Die neue Sachlichkeit, 1918-1925, Ann Arbor, 1981, pp. 40-41 and 142, no. 63.
S. Pfäffle, Otto Dix: Werkverzeichnis der Aquarelle und Gouachen, Stuttgart, 1991, p. 154, no. A 1922/35 (illustrated).
G. Gilsoul, “Mentir vrai,” Le Vif: L’Express, vol. 23, no. 2344, 7 June 1996, p. 86 (illustrated in color).
Berlin, Kronprinzenpalais, Dix-Aquarellausstellung, 1924.
Hanover, Galerie für moderne Kunst, Otto Dix, October-November 1957, no. 12.
Berlin, Galerie Meta Nierendorf, Klassiker der Jungen Kunst, June-September 1959, no. 17.
Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Otto Dix: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, September-October 1960, p. 30, no. 124 (illustrated).
Berlin, Galerie Meta Nierendorf, Otto Dix: Bilder, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, das Graphische Gesamtwerk, 1913-1960, January-April 1961, p. 8, no. 18 (illustrated).
Darmstadt, Hessischen Landesmuseum, Otto Dix: Gemälde, Handzeichnungen, Aquarelle, June-August 1962, no. 76 (illustrated).
Kongresshalle Berlin, Otto Dix: Ölgemälde 1913-1963, Aquarelle, Das graphische Werk, October 1963, no. 102 (illustrated).
Milan, Galleria del Levante, Otto Dix: personale retrospettiva, May-June 1964, no. 18 (illustrated).
The Hague, Museum Paleis Lange Voorhout; Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts; Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall and Helsinki, Helsingin Taidehalli, Art et Résistance: Les peintres allemands de l’entre-deux-guerres, July 1995-August 1996, p. 220, no. 24 (illustrated in color, p. 63).
Milwaukee Art Museum, Making Marks: Drawing in the 20th Century from Picasso to Kiefer, June-August 1998, p. 66, no. 35 (illustrated, p. 28).

Lot Essay

Dix's work during the inflation years of the Weimar Republic catalogues the exotic and debauched extremes of human behavior during a unique period of desperation and frivolity. Like many Expressionist artists, the gaudy yet glamorous world of the circus fascinated the artist. These performers, somewhat akin to the gladiators of ancient Rome, often risked their lives every time they stepped into the ring. It was this daring and dangerous aspect of circus life that Friedrich Nietzsche had used allegorically in Also Sprach Zarathustrat and for Dix—a war veteran and disciple of Nietzsche—it was also this feature of the circus that held particular appeal. Additionally, the circus performers were outsiders, who lived a life free from the moral constraints of modern society. For Dix, this was a model for the way everyone should live.
With its flowing lines and dramatic washes of bright color, Dompteuse is from a series of watercolors which Dix executed in 1922, when he had just arrived in Dresden. Dressed in a tightly corseted costume, complete with a tiara and large blue feather on her head, a skull buckle on her belt, a rose at her breast and a cape at her neck, with a whip in one hand and a cap gun in the other, the female lion tamer embodies all the gaudy glamour and cheap exoticism—and eroticism—of the circus performer. The lion itself, over which the subject dominates, is not present, adding an ambiguous sexual connotation to the scene. The subject is restrained by her costume, yet wild in her gestures; simultaneously beautiful and grotesque in the raw power she exudes.
Dix’s critical gaze is acute despite the stylization of the character which borders on the absurd. As Karsten Müller has written, “With his analytical eye, Dix distills the universally valid aspects out of the popular, trivial, and kitschy, the sensational and the entertaining. No matter whether they are found in backrooms or circus arenas, on dance floors, sidewalks, or stages at fairs, his protagonists are ultimately standing on the boards that stand for our world” (Otto Dix, exh. cat., Neue Galerie, New York, 2010, p. 173).

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