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Otto Dix

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Otto Dix

He was the great German Expressionist, was famous for his unique and grotesque style.

Dix always balanced his inclination toward realism with an equal tendency toward the fantastic and the allegorical.

Having experimented with Expressionism, Futurism and even Dada, Dix finally opted for a realist language that allowed him to present a critical view of the society that surrounded him and which led him to become one of the leading representatives of New Objectivity.

His profound knowledge and admiration for the Old Masters, particularly the German Renaissance painters, led him to base his new style on a technique that revived their working methods. This included the use of panel rather than canvas as a support and a mixed technique of tempera and oil; his painstaking preparation of the support; his way of using the pigments and glazes, and even his signature in the form of a monogram in the manner of Lucas Cranach.

These technical resources also provided him with a way to emphasize form over color and to convey the critical objectivity that he desired, accentuating the realism of his style and endowing it with the critical, ironic and mordant tone that is so typical of his work.

Dix’s revival of old techniques and styles, combined with this “return to order” on the part of a realist artist in opposition to the language of the contemporary avant-garde movements, was accompanied in his by an interest in rediscovering signs of national identity, establishing a link with the great heritage of German culture.

They include macro-photography, which makes it possible to see the unique characteristics of an artist’s technique on the surface not visible to the human eye, such as the nature of the brushwork, the richness of nuances, and the slips or merits of an artist as he or she works; infra-red reflectography, which reveals the drawing beneath the paint layers; X-rays, which reveal the distribution of the different layers of paint used to create the painting; and finally, the analysis of materials, which provide us with an image of the sequential order of the superimposed paint layers and the materials used by the artist.

The craftsmanship and care that he put into the creation of his paintings; the quality of the materials used; the technique used to transfer the preparatory drawing to the final painting; the way of applying the layers of pigment in order to achieve effects of light and transparency; the interest in and revival of the use of glaze.

Later, his approach became more fantastic and symbolic, and he began to depict nudes as witches or personifications of melancholy.
Although Otto Dix (1891-1969) worked in a wide variety of media- watercolor, graphics, and even sculpture- it is in painting that he is known for developing a distinctive and uncommon technique. For twenty years he employed a technique based on opaque tempera underpainting, followed by transparent oil glazes.

This method of painting was fastidious, if not tedious. Dix used it because he sought to achieve the detail and form he observed in old master paintings, while at the same time creating long-lasting, durable objects. Using this technique, Otto Dix became a major figure in the German art movement Neue Sachlichkeit.

Paramount to the understanding of Dix-'s technique is a comprehension of the two basic methods of creating an easel painting: * Alia prima (also called wet into wet) and the layering, or glaze, technique. In alia prima painting, the paint is applied in one layer, and frequently this layer is quite thick. The consistency of the wet oil paint is likely to be that of a buttery paste. The term impasto (derived from the Italian meaning " to knead" or "to mix") describes very thick paint, which is often seen on alia prima paintings. A major advantage of the alia prima method is that it allows the artist to complete a painting quickly. * The layering or glaze technique is almost the antithesis· of alia prima painting. A composition is built up with many thin layers of paint applied one on top of another. The pigments chosen for this method are often transparent. (In alia prima painting, on the other hand, opaque pigments are frequently chosen by the artist.) The paint is usually applied on a white ground, which reflects light back through the thin transparent paint layers. As light passes through these layers, it is filtered and (ideally) attains colors and luminous qualities not possible with the opaque paint of alia prima painting.

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