Modern artists owe a lot to Otto Dix

New Delhi: His works may not have Indian or Asian influence, but the brutal honesty and forcefulness of Otto Dix`s art can be found in many contemporary works, says art historian Philipp Gutbrod about the great German expressionist.

"I see Dix`s influence in artworks by for example George Condo, Nigel Cooke, or Manuel Ocampo. These artists succeed in giving their paintings a maximum impact. They are clearly aware of art history and have studied the masters, but they use their exceptional technique outside of traditional aesthetic norms," Gutbrod, president of New York`s Villa Grisebach Auctions Inc., told PTI.

He says that India has a "wonderfully rich" art tradition and young artists are becoming more and more successful on the international art scene.

"Even though the contemporary art world around the globe is becoming increasingly homogeneous, I enjoy seeing clear elements of Indian culture in contemporary Indian art."

Gutbrod has special praise for Indian artists like Tyeb Mehta, Anish Kapoor, Subodh Gupta and Vibha Galhotra.

"Many fascinating and famous artists have emerged from India, for example Tyeb Mehta and Anish Kapoor. Of the younger artists, Subodh Gupta is already well known and I also like Vibha Galhotra, who I think will continue to surprise us in the future with exceptional artworks," he says.

Gutbrod came out a biography of the artist "Otto Dix: The Art of Life" in German and English spanning his eventful life and multifaceted body of work.

Dix (1891-1969) was not known to have been influenced by Asian artists, but in his early years, he was "influenced by Impressionism and Jugendstil, art movements owing a lot to Asian art."

Exhibitions of Dix`s works have, however, been held in Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.

Gutbrod finds Dix to be an extremely passionate person on every level.

"He absorbed life and created art with all his senses. His outlook on life was truly based on the writings of the philosopher Nietzsche: `Beyond Good and Evil`. He did not adhere to social norms and did not believe in absolute morals. Still, he did speak up when he saw things that seemed unjust or wrong to him.

"For example, he painted his famous War triptych against the resurgence of a nationalistic movement in Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic, because he believed the truth was not being told about the horrors of war," he says.

Dix fought and drew on the front during World War I in the grip of a Dionysian lust for life. After 1918, he gave this war the most honest face ever bestowed on it by an artist. During the Weimar Republic, Dix proved to be an enfant terrible, a dandy, and an urban sophisticate, but he was also a respected professor.

Driven out of his position by the Nazis just several months after they came to power, then ostracized and threatened, he retreated to Lake Constance, employing broad brushstrokes to forge a new path after 1945.

The book accompanies Dix through his eventful life and his multifaceted oeuvre - from the early self-portraits to the masterpieces of the twenties and the calm, mature work of his later career.

Six years before his death in 1969, Dix had said, "I am a realist. I must see everything. I must experience all of life`s abysses for myself."

Gutbrod says this credo is testimony to the artist`s uncompromising commitment to even the harshest realism and stood as a guiding principle throughout his life.