The diaries of Otto Dix are incomplete. They
cover the period 1922-1945. Even within this
period there are substantial gaps of months
and years in which no activities are
accounted for. Dix either failed to record
any entries at these times or the material
has simply vanished. The turmoil and chaos of
the war must certainly account for the
disappearance or destruction of some of this
I have taken the liberty of providing some
fill—historical, cultural, autobiographical--
to somewhat restore the thread of the
We are fortunate to have these diaries even
in the fragmented state that survives. Dix
was a major figure during the period of the
Weimar Republic--a period that witnessed a
tremendous creative explosion in the arts.
There is an Otto Dix that reveals himself via
the paintings and there is another Otto Dix
revealed by the diaries.
They are the same man--there is no confusion
about this. But the diaries do serve to
provide a view through a different sort of
lens--in some ways more penetrating and
The diaries were discovered among the artists
papers following his death. Martha Dix
herself was unaware this material existed.
When the Otto Dix foundation was established--
in Vaduz, Germany in 1974--the diaries were
excluded from the collection. They remained
private property. Martha Dix died in 1978.
The estate was handed down to the Dix
children--Nelly and Harald Dix. We are
grateful for permission to publish.
|in the studio
I have hired a model. I must have my own
model. I need the intensity.
I am using Sally. I have drawn her in
class. Sally is a dish. I like a woman
with big tits. Plus she has energy. She
likes the work. Some of these women pose
like they are on drugs. Its the same with
modeling like anything else. The word is
enthusiasm. There is a dynamic to the
painter/model relationship. Its a
collaborative effort. Some models
We work for 40 minutes and take a break. I
make tea. We drink tea and chat. She is a
sweet thing. She has a good heart.
She asks how I became a painter.
I was always a painter. I could draw
before I could read.
Back to work. So far its not happening. I
try this, that and the other. I whack out
a few things that are not bad. I am not
looking for not bad. Later I will sketch
from the sketches. This sometimes
produces results. Sooner or later it
always happens. You need patience to be
In the studio
I putter doing this and that. I stretch
some canvas, mix up size, add ground to
the size, prepare medium and so forth. I
tidy up. I like a neat studio. The chaos
should occur on the canvas.
I enjoy these little mindless chores. They
serve to warm me up and postpone the agony
of painting. Painting is agony. It can be
exhilirating, energizing, ecstatic, etc.
Then you look at it the next day and it is
shit, shit, shit.
Sally arrives. We get started. I am not
happy with the pose. I pose her on her
side, on her back, on her belly, I stand
her up against the wall, bent over,
straddling a chair backwards, etc.
The chair pose isnt bad but it eliminates
the breasts. I must paint those breasts.
I plug along. I play some music--american
jazz. I love this music. It gets the
juices flowing. I can only paint with
Now I am rolling. As the musicians say--I
am in the pocket.
I slash away in a fury. I love this part
of the work. There is no thinking--it is
mindless.There are no mistakes. Even the
mistakes look good. You just draw. I draw,
draw, draw. The charcoal is flying. I bang
out a dozen sketches. I get one or two I
We take a break. I make tea. We drink tea
and chat. Her girlfriend is having
problems. What are these problems? Men
problems. The girlfriend is also a model.
She is going out with a painter. I say:
never get involved with an artist.
Back to work. I have some new paper I want
to try. Its heavy with a high rag
content. With it I will use extra soft
vine charcoal .
I begin. I draw and wipe out, draw and
wipe out, draw and wipe out. Everything
goes on the one piece of paper. The
results can be interesting. An energy is
produced in this way. Each sketch in some
way evolves or is driven by the image that
has preceded it. The erased images remain
present as ghost images. Its called the
ghost technique. I was taught this
technique by a former professor. He would
sometimes spend a month on a single
drawing in this way. He would work himself
into a state of such fury he would grind
holes thru the paper.
I continue. I draw and wipe out, draw and
wipe out, draw and wipe out. Once the
drawing begins to happen you switch to a
pencil with a harder lead and work in a
little detail. I draw and erase and draw
and erase. Its starting to happen. There
is some energy. I slash away. I go back
and forth from the soft stick to the hard
pencil. I slash away. The charcoal is
flying. I love this paper!
I work in some heavier darks. I smudge and
smear with my fingers and apply the eraser
to lift off and establish highlights. I
need heavier darks. I squeeze black paint
out of a tube and apply with my thumb. I
add a little turps. Black is the greatest
color. Beckmann also says this. I step
back for a look.
Not bad. I turn my back to the drawing and
view it thru a small hand mirror. This
provides a reverse view of the drawing
that serves to identify--we know not
why--discrepancies in the composition and
clarify the behaviour of values. Or you
can turn the drawing on its side.
Back to work. I slash away. I am enjoying
this. Tomorrow it will be shit. This I
know. But for now I am happy.
|NEXT MONTH: AT THE CAFE
Otto Dix was born in 1895 in Leipzig,
Germany.He was the second of 4 children.
His father Hermann Dix was a foundry
worker. His mother was a school teacher.
Dix demonstrated a gift for drawing at an
early age and following the completion of
secondary education received a scholarship
to study at the Fine Arts Academy in
Dresden. He was 19 when World War 1 broke
out. He had already begun to acquire a
reputation as an artist and had several
Dix enlisted in the army and was assigned
to an artillery battalion. He spent the
next 4 years on the front lines. He fought
in France and also on the Russian front. He
was gassed and twice wounded. He finished
the war as a sergeant.
Following the war Dix resumed his studies.
He returned to Dresden. In 1922 he received
a small grant to continue his studies and
do some assistant teaching. The diaries
begin at this point.
|The Diaries of Otto Dix
Reflections on Sex, Painting and