Essenholen bei Pilkem [Ration carriers near Pilkem]

Unit German Army
Accession Number ART50286
Collection type Art
Measurement sheet: 36 x 47.6 cm; plate-mark: 24.6 x 29.6 cm
Object type Print
Physical description etching, aquatint on paper; edition: 70
Maker Dix, Otto
Nierendorf, Karl
Felsing, Otto
Place made Germany
Date made 1924
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Unlicensed copyright


This image is plate 43 from the portfolio of 50 etchings comprising the series 'Der Krieg (The War)', published by Karl Nierendorf, Berlin and printed by Otto Felsing. This scene is near Pilkem Ridge in Belgium during the Third Battle of Ypres. Two unshaven German soldiers are seen crawling on all fours through devastated trench lines with billy-cans containing rations for front line troops held in their mouths. The soldier on the left wears a cap and the one on the right a helmet. They crawl past skulls, skeletons and a barbed-wire fence. A blazing sun radiates over a mountainous landscape in the background. Florian Karsch's catalogue raisonne of the prints cites only one state of 'Essenholer bei Pilkem', so it must be assumed that this print is from this state. However, the sheet does not bear the usual signature and inscriptions of those from the portfolio. This profoundly 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.