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ART DISCOVERY: UNKNOWN WATERCOLORS BY OTTO DIX
by Henrike von Spesshardt
 
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“Dix in Düsseldorf - Otto Dix and the Dusseldorf Artistic Scene 1920-1925,” Sept. 4-Dec. 2, 2011, at Galerie Remmert und Barth, Muhlenstrasse 1, Duesseldorf

Their arresting blaze of colors is unforgettable, and cannot be captured by reproduction. Otto Dix’s large watercolors are among the most sensual works of the Neue Sachlichkeit. Now, several previously unknown Dix watercolors have been rediscovered. They were turned up by the Duesseldorf gallery owners Peter Barth and Herbert Remmert while working on an exhibition to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Dix’s birth in 1891. A small sensation in the world of art history.

In the 1920s Dix established his reputation as an enfant terrible, and at the same time as a virtuoso of watercolor technique, known for masterful wet-on-wet depictions of prostitutes, sailors, invalids and other marginal figures of contemporary society. After studying in Dresden, the artist settled in Duesseldorf in 1922, where he maintained an atelier and met the art dealer Johanna Ey and Dr. Hans Koch, who was soon to become one of his major patrons.

It did not seem bother Koch that Dix stole his wife in the year that he arrived in Duesseldorf. “If you are going to take her away from me, then do it properly,” Koch said, or something along those lines. Dix married his wife Martha in 1923 and they remained together until his death in 1969. The children from Martha’s marriage to Dr. Koch, Martin and Hana Koch, grew up with their father.

Artnet: Mr. Remmert, it sounds almost too good to be true that you stumbled upon these previously unknown works by Otto Dix. How exactly did this come about?

Herbert Remmert: We found the watercolors a few weeks ago in the estate of Martha Koch’s daughter. We had been in touch with her, Hana Koch, and her daughter since 1994, when we held an exhibition about Dr. Hans Koch, who in addition to his medical practice was also an art collector and dealer. He possessed an important collection, including works by Paul Klee and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Since 1917, Koch was also curator of Das Graphische Kabinett von Bergh & Co., where he showed works by Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde and many other artists.

We advised Hana Koch and her daughter that we were planning an exhibition for Otto Dix’s 120th birthday and while we were doing our research there we found these previously unknown watercolors, and also some drawings came to light.

How many watercolors are we talking about and how do they fit in from an art historical point of view?

Specifically, we are talking about three important watercolors from Dix’s years in Duesseldorf, from 1922 and 1923. The titles of the works are Soubrette, Nächtens and Strich III. The period in which they were produced is deemed the most important for Dix’s watercolors and was his most productive time. Furthermore, a preparatory work, in watercolor, was found for an important oil painting, Bildnis des Kunsthändlers Alfred Flechtheim, which can today be found in the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

What happens now with these new, old works? Will they be sold and if so what would one need to pay to purchase a previously unknown Dix?

The rediscovered works, which also include small pencil drawings, which were done for Hana’s brother in 1922, will initially be a part of our exhibition. The prices for the drawings start at €3,800 and for the watercolors at €200,000.

Can we hope that more sensational discoveries will be made or have all the portfolios in the granddaughters’ possession been opened?

Discoveries are continually being made! Since our find last year of the George Grosz watercolor Deutschland ein Wintermärchen in the same estate, we’re sure that further Expressionist works are just waiting to be found.

Your exhibition is also dedicated to Dix’s contemporaries?

With 50 works from Otto Dix from the 1920s, our exhibition will highlight his significance in the midst of extremely buoyant artists’ community in Duesseldorf. We will be showing 30 graphic works from artists, who were friends with Dix, including Jankel Adler, Conrad Felixmüller, Otto Pankok, Karl Schwesig, Lasar Segall and Gert Heinrich Wollheim. Furthermore, one can read a dozen illustrated letters that Otto Dix wrote, which are graphic and mostly very amusing, to Johanna Ey, Hans Koch or Martha Koch, among others. We are dedicating one wall of our gallery to them.

Translation by Caroline von Falkenhausen, August 2011.


HENRIKE VON SPESSHARDT is editor of Artnet.de Magazine.