Otto Dix was a German painter, Sagittarius, possible sex addict, and one time leader of a machine gun unit.
After joining the First World War Dix rose to the ranks of Vice Sergeant Major and was also awarded the Iron Cross. In 1915 he was involved in the Battle of the Somme, which is one of the most violent blood baths in the history of war. Over 1.5 million people were killed, and Dix was wounded many times. He suffered deeply from his experiences during combat and often had recurring nightmares. I'm sure all the Thorazine, Stelazine, Lithium and Lorazepam in the free world couldn't dowse the screamin' Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he more than likely suffered from.
His works penetrate like a horrid nightmare. Violence mingles with scenes of lurid sexuality and crowded surrealism. Paralyzed veterans play cards together. Morbidly obese prostitutes hang out with emaciated prostitutes. Bruise-blue prostitutes squeeze their tits in bars washed in garish hues. Sometimes he paints himself painting prostitutes.
He really, really liked to paint prostitutes.
Every corner of his canvas seems to suffer- suffocating the viewer with deranged paranoia and grief. Even during his later years when attempting a lilting portrait of his daughter frolicking among flowers, he manages an eerie quality- the fauna almost seeming a little clingy, threatening.
Among his more famous paintings include the dazzling triptych Metropolis and his stylized, demented Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden. He is however perhaps best known for his series of fifty etchings titled "Der Krieg"- a detailing of battlefield horror in what is considered by many to be one of the most compelling statements on war ever achieved. This shit makes Francis Bacon look like Thomas Kinkade. Stormtroopers in gas masks charge at you. Infested skeletons grimace and cower in death. They offer a troublesome record of the terror and emotional pain Dix must have suffered in battle and are detailed with extraordinary expertise. Each piece is more vile and thrilling than the next.
When Hitler came to power in Germany, many of Dix's works were destroyed by the Nazis- his anti-military work pissing them off big time. (I'm assuming they didn't mind the paintings of the prostitutes.) He was essentially declared a degenerate and they fucked with him constantly- forbidding him to exhibit or teach. Under Hitler's rule Dix could only be an artist in Germany if he joined the Imperial Chamber of Fine Arts (controlled by the Nazi government, of course) and agreed to only paint landscapes. He reluctantly joined so he could continue working and then proceeded to paint a series of bleak landscapes with coded messages against the Nazis. A notable example can be found in "Flanders"- (pictured below) a drab, rotting piece where almost subliminal corpses absorb into the landscape. At one point Dix was arrested (and later released) on charges of conspiring to kill Hitler and was later pressured to join the German Army in the final months of World War II. As if things hadn't sucked enough for this guy, he ended up being captured by French Troops.
I love Dix. And perhaps my most compelling reason to love him is that he is responsible for creating the scariest piece of art in the history of the universe- "At the Mirror". (pictured below) This was completed in 1921 and makes the chick coming out of the bathtub in "The Shining" look pretty hot.
(click on images to enlarge)