Based upon Dix’s grisly memories, the fifty one etchings of Der Krieg (The War) were an unflinching account of the horrors and the perversity of war. This cycle is a brutal representation of the body: dying, dead, mutilated, decomposing, resting on a landscape becoming lifeless. The technique used (acid etching a metal printing plate to heighten the sense of decay) is a further reminder of the corrosive nature of the artist’s experience.
Francisco de Goya‘s Los Desastres de la Guerra (The disasters of war) – [1746–1828] provided an obvious model for Der Krieg. Like Goya’s account of the barbarity of Napoleonic invasion and the Spanish War of Independence (1808-1814), Otto Dix exploited the possibility of a long sequence of images and a stark realism.
GH Hamilton describes Dix’s cycle as “perhaps the most powerful as well as the most unpleasant anti-war statements in modern art… It was truly this quality of unmitigated truth, truth to the most commonplace and vulgar experiences, as well as the ugly realities of psychological experience, that gave his work a strength and consistency attained by no other contemporary artist, not even by [George] Grosz…”