30 November 2007 - 28 January 2008
A masterpiece of twentieth century art and one of the most powerful indictments of war ever conceived, Der Krieg [War] cycle of prints by leading German artist Otto Dix (1891-1969), goes on display in its entirety for the first time in Adelaide, in a confronting exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia, 30 November 2007 – 28 January 2008.
War: the prints of Otto Dix features the complete cycle of fifty-one etchings which comprise Der Krieg, created by Otto Dix in 1924. Dix was one of the most important German artists of the twentieth century, and served as a German machine-gunner during the First World War. The experience affected him profoundly, and in each nightmarish scene of Der Krieg, Dix forces the viewer also to confront the horror of war, in brutal detail.
Otto Dix, Schädel [Skull] ,1924, etching, aquatint, 25.7 x 19.5cm, The Poynton Bequest 2003. National Gallery of Australia, © Otto Dix, licensed by VISCOPY, Australia 2007.
Curator of the exhibition, Mark Henshaw of the National Gallery of Australia, says that “Dix was both horrified and fascinated by the experience of war.” In Dix’s work, Henshaw also finds “a sensuous quality and an almost perverse delight in the rendering of horrific detail.” Dix said of his work, “I did not paint war pictures in order to prevent war. I would never have been so arrogant. I painted them to exorcise the experience of war. All art is about exorcism.”
This exhibition includes the rarely seen fifty-first print in Der Krieg cycle, which was originally excluded from the portfolio’s 1924 publication, due to its controversial depiction of a soldier raping a nun.
Der Krieg is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest anti-war statements in the history of European art, along with Francesco Goya’s Disasters of War and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. A selection of Goya’s prints from the Gallery’s own collection will be displayed adjacent to the exhibition, highlighting the direct influence of Goya’s prints on Dix’s work.
Coordinating the exhibition in Adelaide, is the Art Gallery’s Curator of European Art Jane Messenger who comments, “This is a timely exhibition and a compelling portrayal of how war reduces society to a state of depravity, from which there is no redemption.”
A public program of events has been scheduled to help visitors explore this challenging exhibition in greater depth, commencing with a lunchtime talk by Mark Henshaw in the exhibition on Friday 30 November, and talks by Jane Messenger through December and January. Film screenings and readings of war poetry will feature, along with satirical performances by local artist Andy Petrusevics, recalling the politics and culture of Germany’s Weimar Republic on 1 and 2 December.
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