Otto Dix “The War” And Rubens “The Consequences of War


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War Effects Art

Otto Dix was Germany artist and soldier in the world war one. Dix was born in 1891 and later joined the army in 1914. The soldier drew remarkable images of himself and other soldiers portraying the brutalities of war. In his prints, Otto Dix immortalized the exceptional horrors of war and its aftereffects on life in Germany. Through the drawings, the artist created landscapes of military trenches filled with decaying human bodies, while others contained disfigured and lonely war veterans clearly depicting the unequal impact of war. Otto Dix paintings are mostly portrayed in Berlin because it is the place he experienced the effects of war. The paper will research and describe the trench warfare art painted by Otto Dix in 1932, which portrays the brutalities of war, and Peter Ruben’s consequences of war. The study is meant to identify the influences their paintings, differences in painting styles and other techniques employed by the two artists.

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The painting “The trench warfare” was done in 1932, and was used by Dix as a way of criticizing the society and those in power by portraying the after effects of the world war one. The painting depicts images of soldiers’ dismembered and decaying bodies, which was after a battle in the war. In the center of the painting, a soldier’s face is covered in a gas mask and to the far left is a survivor soldier collapsed. The Trench Warfare is an interesting art to study because it is famous and its features illustrate the real picture of the war with realistic details. Additionally, the paintings show people the true effects and causes of war and how it is seen. The portrait takes the impression of war by including disfigured bodies of soldiers and surrounding them with the real damages of the war. Otto Dix and Peter Rubens’ paintings were so influential in Germany and throughout Europe respectively due to the strong representations of the post war effects, political criticism and religious mockery, which the painters brought across full of satire and expressionism. The paintings are also interesting to study because they bring war events and other spheres as told first hand by Dix a war veteran himself and Peter Ruben.

Otto Dix used several mediums to create his paintings, some of his famous media included graphics, watercolor and sculpture. However, painting was his favorite and famous way of presenting his ideas. For several years, Dix used a technique that was distinctive based on the opaque tempera underpainting, which was characterized by transparent oil glazes. Although he found this kind of method to be tedious, it was the exact thing he needed to achieve the detail and form he had observed in the war and it could make his work last long. Most notable technique was the alla prima or wet into wet and the layering. In the alla prima painting, the artist applied paint in one layer making it quite thick than the other layer due to the thick paint used in the technique. One of the advantages of the method is that it allows the artist to complete their work fast. An example to paintings done by Otto Dix using this technique is the ‘Tote rim Schlamm’ in 1924. The layering technique involves building of a composition of many thin layers, which are applied on top of another. In this technique, the pigments are transparent as compared to alla prima. Otto Dix used this technique in most of his paintings, which made it possible to attain long lasting abilities. An example of the paintings that used this technique includes the painting of Dr. Hans Koch done in 1921 in ‘Staatsgalerie’, Stuttgart. Another example is the Otto Dix self-portrait of 1931.

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Otto Dix’s paintings reflected on political events, which saw the painter criticize the capitalism system of governance that had taken over Germany. Dix presented in his art the Germany that was economically, morally and socially broken on the rack of the world war. Much of this is shown in his portraits, an example is the self-portrait with a nude model in 1923 and the “memory of the halls of mirrors in Brussels”. In portraying the morality of the country, the painter used naked women and politicians, to easily create a notion of the political immorality, and how the political system has advanced the rotten society. Most of his criticism was aimed at the Nazism leadership, which the painter did not like.

One of Otto Dix’s portrait “Tarven in Hamburg in 1922, created a narrative of war and its results. Through the paintings, he was able to create a new objective philosophy from what was thought to be American way of thinking, where instead of people retreating to a pre-war philosophy. This made people to adopt a functional attitude and going back to a polite and peaceful society. The artist also made religious paintings, and one of it included “The mocking of Jesus”, which was used by non-Christians to mock Christians.

“The Consequences of War” is the type of art that was done between 1638 and 1639 by Peter Rubens. The ancient Flemish painter is credited with more than 1000 works using oil paint and canvas to make portraits that served as interpretations of the war in Europe. The artist used many symbols to from ancient times and others from the modern period to explore state of war and its effects in the continent. The artwork by Rubens invokes a powerful sense of violence, pain and loss of lives and property during the European war. Through this, the painter was able to employ great skill to bring forth the consequences of the European war quite significantly.

Unlike Dix’s paintings, Rubens used simple materials of oil paint and canvas to make portraits. His style of painting contains great liveliness and a vivid imagination that successfully transformed the Baroque flair into an international art. Rubens combined the old and modern style of painting to create several subject matters, which included historical, religious, animal hunting scenes and landscapes. Rubens is known for his bold and swift strokes that depicted drama in the scenes he portrayed. Additionally, the artist liked to add various effects to his portraits such as clouds and landscapes unlike Dix. Ruben was known to add tone to aid in directing the viewer’s eye, and embraced the use of color that he painted thickly in layers to make the image more prominent.

The study of Rubens arts contains both an historical, political, religious and social perspectives. Historically, Rubens depicted the historical figures from the ancient Greek and Roman heroes, on which he used style, splendor and eroticism to communicate in portraits. Rubens religious paintings were inspired by the Bible and were largely commissioned by the church. The religious paintings created splendor and symbolism representing the graphical aspects of religious subject.

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The two artists come from slightly different backgrounds and this causes the differences in their painting styles. Dix used graphics, watercolor and sculpture to make paintings while Rubens created his paintings using bold and swift strokes he used more color as compared to create effects and detail in his work compared to Dix. Dix dedicated much of his artistic work to the world war one events where he fought as a soldier, which saw his portraits contain images of wars, dead soldiers and other effects of the war. On the other hand, Rubens concentrated on the European war as his portraits covered almost every field ranging from religion, historical, romantic and mere landscapes. Dix advanced the after war philosophy, which borrowed heavily from the effects of war as portrayed in his paintings. Rubens was considered as a stoic Baroque of classical ethics and an art theorist. His paintings had logic, ethics and physics, which he used to express the underlying human moral principles.

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  1. Huyssen, Andreas. “German Painting in the Cold War.” New German Critique 37, no. 2 110 (2010): 209-227.
  2. Tummers, Anna, and Koenraad Jonckheere, eds. Art market and connoisseurship: a closer look at paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and their contemporaries. Amsterdam University Press, 2008.
  3. Gerblinger, Christiane. “James Whaley’s” Frankenstein”: Re-animating the Great War.” Cineaction (2010): 2-9.
  4. Siebrecht, Claudia. “The image of the soldier: Portrayals and concepts of martial masculinity from the Wars of liberation to the First World War in Germany.” Journal of War & Culture Studies 5, no. 3 (2012): 261-275.
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