|Measurement||plate: 19.5 x 14.5 cm; sheet: 48.1 x 36 cm|
|Physical description||etching, drypoint and aquatint on paper|
First World War, 1914-1918
Item copyright: Unlicensed copyright
Verlassene Stellung bei Neuville [Abandoned position near Neuville]
This is plate 11 from portfolio II in the series 'Der Krieg (The War)' published by Karl Nierendorf in 1924 and printed by Otto Felsing. The series consists of fifty images assembled in five consecutive portfolios of ten plates each (generally inscribed in the margin in pencil, I to X). It constitutes, along with his 1920-23 painting 'Der Schutzengraben (Trenches destroyed)', the first summation of his military experiences in the war. Dix did not determine the full size of the cycle until he was in the midst of its execution and produced the portfolio in three working periods while in the Black Forest and in St Goar am Rhein between 1923 and 1924. The image shows a battle-scarred trench, with bodies of soldiers trapped in barbed wire, and the remnants of others (a leg and an arm) emerging from the trench floor and a few leaves growing out of a tree stump. Karsch cites only one state of 'Verlassene Stellung bei Neuville', so it must be assumed that this print if from this state. However, the sheet does not bear the usual signature and inscriptions of those from the portfolio. This image is similar to Plate 9 of Der Krieg (Karsch 78) in that both depict abandoned trenches; but this etching does not have the dark silhouette effect of the earlier one. Dix explained why he volunteered for the army: 'The war was a horrible thing, but there was something tremendous about it, too. I didn't want to miss it at any price. You have to have seen human beings in this unleashed state to know what human nature is...' Der Krieg portrays decaying corpses and the effects of war on people, with a horrifying reality. However, Dix rarely showed combat in the series. The foundations for the etchings were Dix's war drawings (twenty drawings were used specifically in the etchings). Dix studied with Wilhelm Heberholtz in order to master the etching techniques to produce this series. Der Krieg was puiblished in five portfolios, each containing ten prints, numbered 1-10. Karsch 80; repr. Gray p. 483. This profouondly graphic image shows the German soldiers as almost inhuman in their gas masks. Dix wrote: "The war was a horrible thing, but there was something tremendous about it, too. I didn't want to miss it at any price. You have to see human beings in this unleashed state to know what human nature is." Dix achieved a superb mastery of the techniques of etching, his works equalling those of such great masters as Rembrandt and Goya. Strongly influenced by Goya's war etchings, Dix's 'Der Krieg' was published in five portfolios, each containing ten prints. The series was widely exhibited, and Dix received considerable critical acclaim.