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Front Cover – The Card Players – Otto Dix 1920

 

 

Sharply condemning the semi-mystical, gushing tendency of Expressionism, the proponents of Neue Sachlichkeit called for a new sense of simplicity and clari­ty, for a sober, realistic view of the world.

As a reaction to the extravagant rhetoric and stylistic confusion of Expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit in art meant a return to the object, to the sober, matter-of-fact depiction of real life. War, the city, prostitution, and lower-middle-class mores were the preferred themes of the movement, which focused its attention on what it saw as the decadence and hypocrisy of postwar society. Many of the Neue Sachlichkeit artists, especially George Grosz, Rudolf Schlichter, and Georg Scholz, viewed their work as a medium for promoting the cause of revolutionary political and social change, and loudly proclaimed their inten­tions. Dix, on the other hand, deliberately abstained from making any kind of political statement; indeed, on several occasions, he openly professed to be uninterested in politics. In 1919, for example, when invited by his friend Conrad Felixmuller, the painter and convinced pacifist, to join the German Communist party, of which Felixmuller was a founding member, Dix replied brusquely: "Do not bother me with your silly politics. I would rather go to a whorehouse." Many years later, in an interview held in 1965, he explained:

“No, I never got involved with any sort of political program, probably because I could not stand all the jargon. When they came along and started making speeches, I switched off at once. I did not want to get roped in.”

This marked aversion to political ideologies and to all forms of narrow doctrinal thinking set Dix apart from the majority of the Neue Sachlichkeit artists, and directly contradicts the received view of his work as embodying a social message. The later inter­pretation is based largely on the fact of Dix's working-class background and his self-consciously proletarian manner.

Otto Dix – Eva Karcher