Casualties of War

Matthew Israel
Feb 7, 2013 5:45PM

To a contemporary viewer, the disfigured, collaged and colorful card players in Dix's Skat Players might seem cartoonish or even humorous. In order to play Skat, a German card game, these men's feet, mouths and artificial limbs are maneuvered awkwardly to substitute for hands; what looks like an old telephone on the table is actually a man's ear; naked women can be seen in the men's heads; one easily mistakes table legs for limbs; and all of the men's faces are almost ludicrous collages of skin and machines. Yet horribly, such cartoonish faces and bodies were actually quite similar to the real faces and bodies of the 1.5 million German veterans returning home wounded in the wake of the first world war. (For proof, compare these depictions with the faces of wounded veterans included in Ernst Friedrich's antiwar 1924 book, War Against War. There's little difference.) These men, with their awfully sewn-together bodies, faces and souls were a common site on the street, selling matches or begging, in the wake of "The Great War."

Matthew Israel
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