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Otto Dix. The War. (1929-32). Expressionnism. Triptych.



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Otto Dix. The War. (1929-32). Expressionnism. Triptych.

This painting described 3 moments one day of war. On the left, the soldiers of a column advance. In the center massacre is with its paroxysm, on the right, a man, self-portrait of the painter as a saver, it transports in his arms a casualty. Realism at Otto Dix is a kind of hallucination visionary. The painter announces of his disillusion and his dislike. By borrowing from the medieval tradition the technical choices and stylistics, (triptych, glacis), it rises the of the economic situation one with timeless and, in addition to one account of the facts, it paints the assessment of a world and announces the disasters to come. The Nazis were not mistaken there : they exclude him into 1933 from its post of professor to the Academy from the fine arts from Dresden, reserve to him an important place in the exposure of “ degenerated Art ” in Munich in 1937 and withdraw 260 of its works of the German museums. Dix fought in the trenches of 14-18, with him only it’s painting into known as much on the war that 10 books.

The horizon is rather high on the left panel and the central panel, it is much lower on the right panel. It is the same for the point of view of the spectator. On the left panel the glance tends to go up while following the movement of the soldiers but is to fall moreover higher on the 2 panels according to. 

Near to the 4 natural points of interest: on the left dead trees of the corpses on the right.

Cutting relates to at the same time space and time. On the left the beginning of the day or the conflict. The men assemble to the face the flower to rifle for what was announced like the last war… In the center the war: a butchery. Under the central panel the predelle one fills of corpses or men resting in earthy colors. On the right, after the war or the battle: wounds of the bodies and the hearts.

The left panel is built on the rising diagonal. The central panel is composed on the downward diagonal suggesting an idea of forfeiture and fall. It is especially the strong image of the corpse perched in the tree which indicates this idea of collapse. The right panel is built on the 2 diagonals the guiding lines are directed to the bottom but the movement of the “saver” who helps the casualty draws this one to the top as well as the glance from the spectator. 


Details : 

They are thousands ! 540.000 French and 460.000 Germans died in Verdun in 1916. From July 1914 to November 11th 1918 the number of the victims of the war rises with more than 8 million soldiers and more than 13 million civilians. What makes more than 21 million dead on the whole.

By the form this triptych evokes a medieval or Baroque retable.
The subject of these triptychs is often the crucifixion of Christ. The force of the symbol of this corpse perched in the tree comes from there. This man did not give his life to save humanity it is the opposite which it is produced one stole his life to him and it points the carnage of an accusing finger. The presence of this tree on the battle field is improbable. February 21st 1916 with Verdun a million shell are drawn in 9 hours by the Germans starting from 7:15. 
What makes + of 110.000 shells per hour. This rhythm trees, and the men, do not resist. One replaced the men, nobody did not replant the trees. 
26 million shell will be drawn during the battle from Verdun.

This soldier carrying a gas mask is the only alternative to evoke gases. 
The soldiers were terrorized by poison gases. One hears and one sees a shell, the gas is invisible and quiet and it is often too late when one realizes his presence. In April and May 1915 the Germans launch an offensive in Flandres, in Ypres, and employ chlorine gas clouds, it is the first appearance with large scales of the chemical war.

This character is a self-portrait of the author. Behind him, a true sky of apocalypse. 

Light : 

The 3 panels are enlightened of the same light which comes from in top on the central panel. 

Colors: Contrast between hot and cold, complementary colors.

Similar Paintings :

Otto Dix : Street of Prague. 1920. 

Otto Dix : Players of Skat. 1920. 

Otto Dix : The Matches Seller. 1921.