War Paint (Part 9): Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas

Part 9 in a 10 part series. To view other entries into the War Paint Series, follow the link.

We’ve now sailed clear through the Romanticism of the 19th century. The last few entries into the War Paint Series have been of a truly epic nature. Romantic ideas about war were left to the Napoleonic Wars and Colonial Wars of the previous century. Cavalry charges were replaced with mechanized warfare, creating casualties like never before. Cultural ideas about war began to shift along with the greater killing capacity. No longer would a man have to defeat another man in hand to hand combat, or shoot him from a distance close enough to see ‘the whites of his eyes.’ Hundreds could be mowed down by one man strategically positioned with a machine gun.

Otto Dix Self-Portrait, 1926. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Otto Dix Self-Portrait, 1926. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The subject of this work needs no explanation. If you don’t already know about World War I, what are you doing reading my history blog? I’d like to highlight its treatment though. The soldiers in Stormtroopers Advancing Through Gas do not have the air of heroes. They are stormtroopers, coming across no man’s land, weapons in hands. Ghoulish would be a more suitable adjective than valiant. They are also faceless. The backdrop is of shredded fence posts and barbed wire. Hell would be an apt word to describe the print and it’s precisely what the artist was after.

Otto Dix was a born in Gera, Germany in 1891. He is most noted for his portrayals of the brutal nature of war, specifically WWI. He learned firsthand what war was like, serving as a machine gunner on both the Western and Eastern Fronts. He participated in the Battle of the Somme among others, earning the Iron Cross while on campaign. He is most closely associated with the Dadaist Movement and his art was displayed by the Nazis as a prime example of degenerate art. His War Cripples (I was torn as to which of these two paintings to put in the series) was particularly singled out for showing war heroes in an unflattering light and much of his work was burned. He died in Singen, West Germany in 1969.

He’s one of my favorite artists and I secretly think that finding a way to share his work on my blog was one of the prime motivations for the War Paint Series, which will soon be coming to a close. Check out the link below to some of Dix’s other works. His prints would serve well as punk album covers and are among the most moving pieces of art.

Further Viewing

Link to Otto Dix’s prints  (ottodix.org)

War Cripples by Otto Dix, 1920. Via ottodix.org.

War Cripples by Otto Dix, 1920. Via ottodix.org.

5 thoughts on “War Paint (Part 9): Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas

  1. Good post and excellent choice of illustrations. I enjoyed it!

  2. Jenny says:

    What a genius. What a man who knew what he had seen and didn’t give a ——- what other people thought about it. Thank you for reminding us of him.

  3. Ste J says:

    It is true art when you have experienced such monumental historical events. I wonder how tortured he was and hoe anyone could justify their own lives after being in such wars.

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