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OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION
OTTO DIX (1891-1969)

Älteres Liebespaar

Details
OTTO DIX (1891-1969)
Älteres Liebespaar
signed, dated and numbered 'DIX 23/224' (lower right); inscribed and numbered 'Älteres Liebespaar K 13.82' (on the reverse)
gouache, watercolour, India ink, thick silver pen and pencil on paper
15 ½ x 13 1/8 in. (39.2 x 33.2 cm.)
Executed in 1923
Provenance
Private collection, North Germany, probably by 1977.
Literature
E. Karcher, Otto Dix, Leben und Werk, Cologne, 1988, p. 123 (illustrated).
S. Pfäffle, Otto Dix, Werkverzeichnis der Aquarelle und Gouachen, Stuttgart, 1991, no. A 1923/92, p. 190 (illustrated; illustrated again p. 113).
E. Karcher, Otto Dix, Entweder ich werde berühmt - oder berüchtigt, Cologne, 1992, p. 87 (illustrated pl. 41).
Exhibited
Hamburg, Kunstverein, Otto Dix: Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Grafiken, Kartons, April - June 1977, no. 79, p. 132 (illustrated p. 83).
Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, Otto Dix, August - October 1985, no. 316, p. 182 (illustrated).
Genoa, Centro per le arti visive e Museo d'arte contemporanea di Villa Croce, Otto Dix, July - September 1986, no. 105, p. 205 (illustrated p. 148; dated '1922').
Berlin, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Otto Dix, March - April 1987, no. 114, p. 165 (illustrated).
Stuttgart, Galerie der Stadt, Otto Dix, Zum 100. Geburtstag 1891-1991, September - November 1991, p. 151 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Nationalgalerie, November 1991 - February 1992; and London, Tate Gallery, March - May 1992, no. 77 (illustrated).
Ravensburg, Städtische Galerie, Otto Dix, Aquarelle der 20er Jahre, October - December 2002, no. 60, p. 115 (illustrated p. 93).
Hamburg, Bucerius Kunst Forum, Geisterbahn und Glanzrevue: Otto Dix. Aquarelle und Gouachen, June - September 2007, no. 316, p. 309 (illustrated p. 182).
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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Micol Flocchini
Micol Flocchini Head of Works on Paper Sale

Lot Essay

Älteres Liebespaar is one of the finest of an extensive series of deliberately grotesque, 'Verist' watercolours that Otto Dix made in the early 1920s at the height of Germany's 'Inflation Years' when hyper-inflation, in the wake of the First World War, had crippled the country and brought polite society to its knees. Dix, like many artists, during this difficult period when the materials needed for oil painting were both difficult and expensive to source, had turned to the medium of watercolour and soon came to be recognised as one of the leading masters of the medium.

The many watercolours that Dix produced between 1922 and 1923 today form one of the artist's most important bodies of work. It is these, for example, that most strongly characterise the development of his painting out of the exaggerated Dadaist satire of the immediate post-war period and into the shockingly perceptive Verist style of portraiture that was to distinguish his best-known work of the 1920s. With its disturbingly accurate portrayal of a grotesque pair of aging lovers canoodling on a couch in the midst of a lovingly detailed Biedermeier interior, Älteres Liebespaar is a well-known and particularly accomplished case in point.

The term 'Verism' that was given to the work of artists such as George Grosz, Max Beckmann and Otto Dix in the early 1920s applies to the intentionally ugly form of realism that formed a major part of the emerging Neue Sachlichkeit tendency in Germany in the aftermath of the world war. Often tinted with a strong sense of moralising and/or social criticism, Verism also served as a powerful realist counter to the colourful, exaggerated and inward-looking excess of earlier Expressionism.

For Dix, a veteran of the war who had served as a machine-gunner on both its Eastern and Western fronts, realism was an affirming of the way things really are. 'You cannot paint indignation', he declared, 'you have to be able to affirm – affirm the expressions of humanity that are there and always will be' (Otto Dix, quoted in F. Löffler Otto Dix: Life and Work, New York, 1982, pp. 69-70). As a guide in this direction Dix often looked back to the eternal truths articulated by Old Masters painters, in particular German masters such as Hans Baldung Grien and Lucas Cranach. These were two figures whose penchant for depicting the theme of unequal and aging lovers undoubtedly informs such works as Älteres Liebespaar as well Dix's oil painting on this theme: Altes Liebespaar in the Nationalgalerie, Berlin and Ungleiches Liebespaar in the Galerie der Stadt, Stuttgart.

The eternal truth that Dix persistently asserted was the one that he had learned from Nietzsche: that life was little more, in essence, than an endless and recurrent battle between the twin elemental forces of Eros (sex) and Thanatos (death). It is the articulation of this endless and elemental struggle – one which Dix had personally witnessed raw and unleashed during the war and which he then continued to recognise still functioning beneath the veneer of polite society in the years following - that underpins almost all his pictures of the 1920s. This is very much the case also in Älteres Liebespaar, where its pair of unequal lovers and their aging, decrepit and decaying bodies are visibly shown to be still pulsing with erotic desire. By way of social commentary, Dix sets this ugly truth against the contrastingly shallow lie of the surface décor of the aging couple's Biedemeier apartment. 'I wasn't at all interested in depicting ugliness', Dix said of such paintings, 'Everything I've ever seen is beautiful' (Otto Dix, quoted in D. Schmidt, Otto Dix im Selbstbildnis, Berlin, 1981, p. 149).

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