The seven deadly sins | Otto Dix | 1933
Otto Dix was born in Germany and began painting with his cousin. As a teenager, he joined the army to fight for his country in the First World War. After three years, he was discharged and awarded with an Iron Cross for bravery. His experiences in the front will influence the artist to paint the horrors of war.
From the moment he leaves the army, Dix begins to meet other painters and, over a period, he joins several artistic movements. He got close to the Expressionists, to the members of the Dresden Secession, to the Berlin Secession and, finally, in 1925, he joins the group of the Neue Sachlichkeit, the New Objectivity, which will be associated forever with the name of the artist.
The term New Objectivity, like American positivism, implied a practical, pragmatic relationship with the world. That is why they rejected the subjectivity and romanticism of expressionism. The New Objectivity movement was deeply critical of society: in those times of financial and political instability, where the gap between rich and poor increased; Dix will portrait the reality behind the curtain: the prostitutes, the unemployed and veterans of war.
But everything changed when Nazis seized power in 1933. Like many others, Dix was listed as a degenerate artist and many of his works were burned. He was also forced to join the Reich’s Chamber for Fine Arts, promising that he will only paint inoffensive landscapes. He did not.
In this period, Dix produced canvases that disguised critics to the Nazi ideals . The seven deadly sins is one of them. Here, the artist uses a medieval allegory to portrait the seven deadly sins of the Catholic tradition with the magic-realist style typical of the New Objectivity.
In the foreground, Envy, symbolized by a child wearing a mask, rides Greed, who takes the form of an old woman holding a bag of money. As you can imagine, the characteristic mustache of the Führer on the mask of the child was added after the war, when there was no danger of retaliation. Behind them appears Sloth, a person dressed as a skeleton with the heart removed, representing Death. The position of the members of this figure resembles the swastika. With this symbol, Dix criticized German society that allowed the rise of Hitler to power with its silence and conformity. Behind and to the left we see Lust, dancing and trying to breast-feed Death. To its right, Wrath is shown as a horned demon. Behind the scythe, we see the head of Pride, which has an anus for mouth. And finally, Gluttony, on the far right corner of the painting, is symbolized by a figure with a pot on his head that holds two symbols: in its right hand, the symbol of infinity and, in his left, a rod with the symbol of the Christian fish.