My Highlights from Art Basel 2014
PROPERTY FROM THE BUCHHEIM MUSEUM, BERNRIED, GERMANY
Watermark BSB, some without watermark and 12 plates on wove paper, all signed in pencil, mostly unnumbered (one plate numbered 15/70 and dated 24 in pencil), presumably a proof set aside from the total edition of seventy published by Karl Nierendorf, Berlin, printed by O. Felsing, Berlin, all with margins, most sheets slightly trimmed and with small thin spots and repairs where previously tipped down at the sheet corners and edges, the subjects in very good condition, lacking the justification, table of contents, paper wrappers and linen portfolios.
Plates 255 x 192 mm. (and similar), Sheets 448 x 332 mm. (and similar)
From the Catalogue:
Otto Dix's Der Krieg is one of the finest and most unflinching depictions of war in western art. His early 20th century vision of the horrors of the battlefield ranks alongside those of Jacques Callot's Les Grandes Misères de la Guerre and Francisco de Goya's Los Desastres de la Guerra (see lot 13).
Dix enlisted in the army soon after hostilities began and took part in some of the bloodiest engagements of the entire conflict, including the Battle of the Somme, the Russian front, Verdun and Ypres. His work before and in the early stages echoed the dynamism of the Italian Futurists, whose work was exhibited in Germany in 1913. Whilst Dix avoided the nervous collapse experienced by many other artists, including Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Beckmann, he was nonetheless radically transformed by what he saw. The excitement and fascination with industrial warfare gave way to an intensely critical attitude towards the German social and military establishment once the war was over. Back in Dresden he became involved with a small Dadaist group, and through them exhibited in the First International Dada Fair in 1920. He adopted a collage technique, which had its roots in Dada as well as Cubism and proofed perfectly suited to depicting the grotesque products of war and its corrupting effects on society.
His horrific and grotesque, at times darkly funny, depictions of the war - the battlefields, the trenches, shell craters, soldiers in close combat, dismembered bodies and rotting corpses left behind in the mud - were the result of a desire, a need almost, to exorcise the ghosts that haunted him. 'My dreams were full of debris' he said many years later. (Quoted in 'Dix: War', John Willett, Disasters of War - Callot Goya Dix, Arts Council Touring Exhibition, South Bank Centre, London, 1998, p. 65).
This exorcism was typified by a large, gruesome painting entitled The Trench (1920-23), which was sold initially to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne. After much controversy it was given back to Dix before at last finding a home in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden. In between it was sent on tour as part of a pacifist exhibition called Nie wieder Krieg! ('Never another War!'), the popularity of which prompted Dix's dealer Karl Nierendorf to commission a series of fifty prints on the same theme, to be published in Berlin in 1924.
The painting was to slumber in a Dresden storeroom until it was seized by the Nazis and shown in the notorious Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937, where it hung near a complete set of Der Krieg. The painting subsequently disappeared, and was presumably destroyed. The prints, however, have survived - Dix's finest, most famous, passionate and shocking work.
It is fascinating to think that the present set belonged to Lothar-Günther Buchheim, himself the author of a harrowing account of 20th century warfare. His best-selling novel 'Das Boot' of 1973 (and the subsequent film) are based on Buchheim's own experiences as a young sailor on board a German submarine during World War II. In his later life, together with his wife Diethild, he formed an important collection of German Expressionist Art, now permanently housed at the Buchheim Museum in Bernried in Bavaria.
—Courtesy of Christie's
Christie's Special Notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Lothar-Günther Buchheim (1918-2007), and Diethild Buchheim (1922-2014), Feldafing, Germany; after 2001 donated to the Buchheim Museum, Bernried am Starnberger See, Germany; de-accessioned from the collection as a duplicate in 2016.
In his Expressionist prints and paintings, Otto Dix immortalized the unprecedented horrors of World War I and its crippling aftereffects on life in Berlin. Anguish radiates from Dix’s desolate landscapes of military trenches filled with barely distinguishable, decaying human remains, the legacy of the first industrialized war, while images of poor, disfigured, and lonely veterans invisible to passersby on the streets were comments on war’s unequal impact on different societal groups. Exploitation is also the theme of his “Femme Fatale” paintings, criticizing the narcissism that drove women to work the system in attempt to outdo one another—a representation of the social turmoil at the time. Along with George Grosz, Dix is widely considered one of the most important artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit (“New Objectivity”), a term used to characterize the turn of public attitudes in Weimar Germany toward the practical and functional and the art the emerged from it.
German, 1891-1969, Gera, Germany