Otto Dix. Scherzo from the portfolio Nine Woodcuts (Neun Holzschnitte). 1920 (published 1922)

Otto Dix Scherzo from the portfolio Nine Woodcuts (Neun Holzschnitte) 1920 (published 1922)

  • Not on view

Otto Dix aggressively implies in this portfolio that sex is the force driving all men. In Apotheose (Apotheosis), fragmented body parts and leering faces orbit a grotesquely distorted prostitute, whose outsize genitalia mark the center of the composition. Dix believed in the utter incompatibility of men and women. He borrowed imagery conveying the epic conflict of the sexes from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, such as the juxtaposed moon and sun in Mann und Weib (Nächtliche Szene) (Man and woman [nocturnal scene]) and the cats slinking over moonlit roofs in Katzen (Cats). On the streets, meanwhile, traditional order—both moral and pictorial—breaks down. Die Prominenten (Konstellation) (The celebrities [constellation]) reveals Dix's skepticism toward exuberant promises of a better future: four ideologues share a single body, espousing a manifesto of love, fatherland, order, and Dada.

Although still indebted stylistically to the Expressionist techniques of distortion, the Futurist fracturing of picture planes, and the Cubist use of collage, Dix has already discovered the power of scathing social critique in these early woodcuts, which count as some of his first prints. He made woodcuts only briefly, between 1919 and 1920, and then gave up the medium entirely.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.
Medium
Woodcut
Dimensions
composition: 9 7/16 x 6 7/8" (24 x 17.5 cm); sheet: 17 x 13 7/8" (43.2 x 35.3 cm)
Publisher
Heinar Schilling, Dresdner Verlag, Dresden
Printer
Unknown
Edition
30; plus few proofs printed by the artist
Credit
Given anonymously
Object number
517.1951
Copyright
© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Portfolio
Nine Woodcuts (Neun Holzschnitte)
Department
Drawings and Prints
Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

William S. Lieberman, New York; given anonymously to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1951

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