An Easter Offering, Otto Dix

Cornelia van Voorst

April 6,2023

Paintings: The Great Crucifixion 1948 ; The Resurrection, 1949, Otto Dix

Lithographs: From The Gospel of St Matthew, 1960. Christ Carrying the Cross, Christ Crowned, Christ Mocked, Otto Dix

As an offering for Easter, we are looking at the work of German artist, Otto Dix.

Otto Dix (born December 2, 1891–died July 25, 1969) worked through the most tumultuous times of the Twentieth Century. He is best known for being a leader of the New Objectivity movement in the 1920s which eschewed sentimentalism and idealism for a ‘clear eyed vision of reality’. His work during this time depicts what he witnessed as a soldier in WW1 trenches and reflects the social and spiritual brokenness of German Weimar Republic society.  A scathing social critic of the greed and neglect of capitalism, his depictions of urban Germany’s poor were both unrelentingly wretched and compassionate.

Critical of the Nazis, in the 1930s, Dix’s works were confiscated and exhibited at the notorious Degenerate Art Exhibitions, and many were destroyed. Dix was sacked from his teaching position at the Düsseldorf Akademie and suffered the last days of WW2 as an elder conscript and prisoner of war. His post-war work while still figurative, took on an abstract expressionist style. These works addressed the sufferings of Christ as directly related to his lived experience.  Most of these paintings and prints depict the life of Jesus- over forty studies of the Passion of Christ, alone in a two-year period from 1948 to 1950.

“You have to read every single word. For the Bible is a wonderful history book. There is great truth in all of it. Most people don’t read the Bible, but reading the Bible, reading it as it is, in all of its realism, including the Old Testament: it’s quite a book. Quite a book, you might even say it is the book of books…. simply magnificent!”

“In the history of the Bible, there are such wonderful images in it; when I was a boy, when we had ‘Bible Study’, I always imagined to myself exactly where that might have happened in my homeland.”

 “Then he’s (Jesus) hung up there, he’s put up there on the cross looking like a ballet dancer, you know, pretty and polished and pretty, wonderfully anointed and pretty….And then when you read a detailed description of the crucifixion, well, that is something that is so horrible, awful. How the limbs swell up.…How the person can’t breath. How the face changes color. How he dies a horrible, utterly horrible death. Then he’s portrayed up there as a wonderfully beautiful youth. Well, that’s all fraud…. And if he was a great man, then he was in the most horrible pain. He was tortured so much. He collapsed and fell unconscious, having to carry the cross like he did. …It was worse than it was in the way of the war.”

(Quotes by Otto Dix from an interview with Maria Wetzel in 1963/ 5)

For Dix the Bible’s forthright depictions of human violence, frailty, and suffering provide spiritual relevance for those who had lived and died, and still live and die through the worst of human experience. Through his art we can imagine Jesus participating fully in the brokenness of humanity. Facing the crucifixion again and again through his painting, Dix is explicit about the hope found in Jesus’s suffering with us. That hope comes to fruit in the Resurrection and the call to disciple the world through the redemptive power of love.

Learn more about Otto Dix here:

Otto Dix: Matthäus Evangelium ( the Gospel of St Matthew) is part of the Collection of Sandra and Robert Bowden.

Cornelia van Voorst leads Creative Prayer online every third Sunday for Convergence. Cornelia is a contemporary artist with a studio practice in Victoria, BC, Canada. Her theopoetic work is expressed through visual art, curating, writing and speaking. Learn more about Cornelia and our 5:00 PM Sunday sessions here…

You can also learn more about Cornelia and her art through her website and find her on Instagram @vanvoorst_cornelia or Facebook: Cornelia van Voorst