One of Dix's pupils at the Academy in Dresden where Dix taught for much of the1920s recalled that at the regular Monday morning model markets, Dix would always pick out those models whose bodies had been branded by their lives, widows, pregnant women worn-out prostitutes, or those trying to hide their age under a cosmetic facade. As Dix himself recalled of this period, 'There was a colossal number of different types. I was always after types. The streets, the cafés, there you could find everything, I felt close to everything there. The sad, the everyday enticed and inspired me' (Otto Dix cited in F. Löffler, Otto Dix: Life and Work, New York, 1982, p. 11).
In particular it was to the prostitute that Dix was drawn. A frequenter of brothels for much of his life, Dix discovered in the withered and bizarre faces and bodies of the prostitutes he painted, not only a metaphor for the times in which he lived but also a perverse beauty. In the immediate post-war years of chronic inflation the street whore could be seen as the female equivalent of the war cripple - a victim and a mirror of the times. In addition Dix was fascinated by the duality of repulsion and attraction that a painted whore provoked in him. Time and again he would revel in the juxtaposition of extremes, nowhere more so than in his great triptych of 1927 Metropolis in which the side panels of this memorable icon of modern life in Weimar Germany were given over to war-cripples and prostitutes.
Painted in the same year as Metropolis, Marianne is a luscious watercolour portrait of a gaudily made-up woman similar to those found in the triptych. Wearing a fur coat and jewels and shown holding a cigarette between her painted figures, she epitomizes the showy nightlife of the so-called 'golden twenties'. As its inscription indicates, Marianne was painted for the pioneering film-maker Dr Hans Cürlis and indeed may well be one of the two watercolours that Cürlis' famous film of Dix shows him making in 1927.
Watercolour and pencil on paper
THE GERSTEL COLLECTION
Signed, dated and inscribed 'Für Dr. Cürlis im April 27.DIX' (at the upper edge)
German & Austrian Art
24 1/8 x 19¾ in. (61.2 x 50.2 cm.)
S. Pfäffle, Otto Dix, Werkverzeichnis der Aquarelle und Gouachen, Stuttgart, 1991, no. A1927/24 (illustrated pp. 132 & 212).
A gift from the artist to Dr Hans Cürlis.
Bernard Black Gallery, New York.