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War. Triptych

Painting, 1932, 406×264 cm

Description of the artwork «War. Triptych»

“War” is a huge triptych measuring 4 by 2 meters, written in tempera and butter on wood. Otto Dix worked on it for 3 years and completed it in 1932, a year before the Nazis came to power. When Dix was added to the list of the most dangerous artists in Germany, he took this triptych apart to save it from destruction. He left only the right panel, and the rest was divided among several friends - and they each hid their part until the end of World War II. Triptych survived.

It is not difficult to guess what horror this work would have caused the new German authorities and with what pleasure these wooden panels would be thrown into another cleansing fire. When powerful Nazi propaganda works on the image of a strong, muscular hero who courageously fought for his country during the First World War, there is nothing more dangerous than such a brutal and straightforward truth that there really is war. Otto Dix went through the whole war: he went to the front as a volunteer in 1914 and was hospitalized with a wound in 1918. It will be 10 years before he takes on this frightening work and writes a ghostly half-dead self-portrait on the right wing of the triptych "War". Colorless, either ashen, or ice, the warrior who pulls a wounded or already dead colleague from the battlefield is Dix himself. War apostle, death witness, scorched earth artist.

The analogy with the figure of an apostle or a saint is not accidental here - the entire composition of the triptych repeats exactly the composition of the traditional altar. "Isenheim Altar" Matthias Grunewald or triptych Crucifixion Rogier van der Weyden should be remembered by every German who looked at Dix's “War”. But rather, of course, Grünewald.

"War" is a crucifix without a crucifix itself. A world in which, with unabasive blind cruelty, people exterminate each other, repeating the most tragic Christian history, they crucify God in their souls in each new war. In the bottom of the narrow long part in close, airless space, at the base of the war - a number of corpses. In the central part there is a hellish meat grinder of the battlefield: disfigured corpses, apocalyptic landscape, entrails, a figure in a gas mask (either alive or dead — in any case, lost its human appearance). And above all this, triumphant death - the skeleton, from which time and the wind have already taken off the flesh, and which seems to be a flying, sinister ghost, until you look at the details - and you do not notice with horror that this is a corpse entangled in a rusted structure. Awkwardly crucified by war without hope of resurrection.

Such an attitude to the war, Hitler declared defamed national feelings and heroes who returned from the front. Such an attitude to the war did not contribute to the education of the patriotic spirit and readiness to give up their lives for the ideals of a new strong country. Paradoxically, the most disgusting and unsightly depiction of military reality in Dix's picture becomes the strongest argument in favor of the world. Scorched entrails and frozen corpses of the central part, lifeless corpses of the lower part acquire the shock power of persuasion. Twenty-year-old realist Otto Dix had to go through the horror of the first war in order to create the most powerful pacifist artistic statement on the eve of the second. Never again repeat this hell.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

This artwork was added since it is referred to in the materials below

Art form: Painting

Technique: Mixed technique

Materials: Wood

Date of creation: 1932

Size: 406×264 cm

Artwork in selections: 15 selections