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Card Players (Kartenspieler)

Otto Dix

European Art

Otto Dix served in World War I, earning an Iron Cross, but the destruction and trauma of modern mechanized warfare and its aftermath greatly affected him. This print depicts three of the 1.5 million wounded and disabled soldiers who filled German streets after the conflict.

The war’s bodily devastation and disintegration are sharply delineated in details such as a mechanical jaw, a missing nose, a glass eye, and an ear tube emerging directly from a misshapen skull. Among the three men, there is only a single shirt-sleeved and cufflinked leg—repurposed, like the other soldier’s mouth, to hold cards. The other prosthetic legs and the contraption supporting the torso of the figure on the left are nearly indistinguishable from the chair and table legs. These figures play cards and smoke cigars as they may have done before the war, but in this image of truncated, mechanized men, Dix shows how the war machine remade the world in its own image.
MEDIUM Drypoint on wove paper
  • Place Made: Germany
  • DATES 1920
    DIMENSIONS image (Plate): 12 7/8 × 11 1/8 in. (32.7 × 28.3 cm) sheet: 22 7/8 × 19 3/16 in. (58.1 × 48.7 cm)
    SIGNATURE Signed, "Dix 20" in pencil lower right margin
    INSCRIPTIONS Lower left in graphite: "Kaltnadel"; lower right in plate: "Dix"; lower right in graphite: "Dix 20"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 55.165.66
    EDITION Edition: One of a few
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. F.H. Hirschland
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