From Mars to Kassandra: the memorialisation of World War I in the work of Otto Dix

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Murray, Ann
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University College Cork
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This thesis argues that the memorialisation of World War I in the work of German artist and soldier Otto Dix (1891-1969) challenged Germany’s prevailing social and political attitudes to war and militarism, demanding action against growing public support for militarist politics in the late Weimar Republic. Scholarship has dwelt on the art-historical context of Dix’s war pictures but not their interaction with the socio-political context, specifically in Dresden, where Dix worked, and where numerous extreme right-wing cultural and political groups were active. The thesis focuses on some battlefield pictures and two triptychs, Metropolis (1928) and War (1929 1932) relating them to the broader visual culture of war in order to assess Dix’s strategies as a transgressive commemorative artist. The relationship between Dix and Dresden’s extreme right-wing groups has been largely overlooked; yet, as the thesis reveals, the extreme Right’s negative reception of Dix’s work significantly complicates the terms by which his art is understood. Employing the methods of the social history of art, the thesis establishes the meaning of these works within their social, political and artistic context. Chapter I reconstructs Dix's first public showing in a soldiers’ art exhibition in Dresden in 1916 in order to trace the artist’s development as an incisive memoriographer of war. Chapter II treats nationalist art, artists and extreme right-wing criticism in Dresden in exploring the provocative nature of Dix’s appropriation and adaptation of the traditional styles and techniques lauded by the extreme Right. Chapter III looks at the role of the triptych Metropolis in catalysing right-wing art criticism during a major exhibition in Dresden in 1928. The final chapter focuses on the relative failure of the triptych War as antithetical to militarist culture, as based on the quantity and quality of its reception at the Prussian Academy in 1932.
History of art , Memorialisation , German art , German culture , German history , Otto Dix , World War I , First World War , War art , Memory
Murray, A. 2018. From Mars to Kassandra: the memorialisation of World War I in the work of Otto Dix. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.