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About this work

Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

In a painting he later described as "completely characteristic" of his work before World War I, Otto Dix envisions a nun's internal struggle between her hope for eventual heavenly rewards and her desire for immediate worldly pleasures. The jarring, acidic colors on the nun's face and hands contrast sharply with the anguish and torment conveyed by her downcast eyes and furrowed brow. Dix matches the deep lines and fractured planes of her face to the soaring vaults of the Gothic cathedral in which she appears. Within this holy space, she is torn by competing desires. On the left, a radiating, vulva-shaped form pushes aside the agonized and bloody Jesus. Opposite, a nude cradles her own glowing red stomach, alluding to motherhood, another earthly experience the nun must renounce for her faith.

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Otto Dix (German, 1891–1969)

The Nun

Date:
1914
Medium:
Oil on cardboard
Dimensions:
27 5/8 x 20 5/8" (70.2 x 52.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Gertrude W. Dennis
Copyright:
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Reference:
Löffler 1981, cat. 14
MoMA Number:
253.1988
Themes:
Religion, Sex
Techniques:
Painting

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