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Front cover: Dr Mayer-Hermann  – Otto Dix 1926

Moma New York 

 

Otto Dix liked to proclaim his oik background but wanted nothing to do with the political isms of his time – nationalism, fascism, communism, Marxism. In art too he had no time for impressionism, cubism, vorticism, expressionism (although Moma puts him in this last category). What he admired and harked back to was realism – Holbein, van Eyck and the early Dutch masters. There seems to be more than a hint of the Arnolfini Wedding in the Doctor Mayer-Hermann’s mirror. This category, neue schachlikeit - new realism, also included that other excoriator of the Weimar republic Georg Grosz. Hitler, however, was more into chocolateboxism and he had much of Dix’s work destroyed after proving his point with the Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937. 

Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933 at the Tate in Liverpool shows many of Dix’s surviving works (unfortunately not including Dr Mayer). The fifty harrowing etchings on trench warfare appear for the first time in England and a number of fascinating watercolours showing scenes from oik life in the republic. See Exotic Brothel on the back cover. Moma’s analysis of the good doctor appears below – one wonders if he could have done anything for poor old Larkin? (see page 39) 

Dr. Mayer-Hermann was a renowned throat specialist whose waiting room was filled with the most prominent singers and actresses of his day. Dix was among his patients. While Dix is best known for his unflinching depictions of prostitutes, disabled war veterans, and other traumatized subjects, here he depicts an established professional with wit and satire. The abundance of circular shapes that fill the canvas parodies the doctor's round body and face—from the curves of his chubby hands and the round bags under his eyes to the reflector on his headband and the mirror above his head.