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9 / Portraits

Lady with Mink and Veil
Lady with Mink and Veil
Artist / Origin Otto Dix (German, 1891–1969)
Region: Europe
Date 1920
Material Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on cardboard
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 28 ¾ in. (73 cm.), W: 21 ½ in. (54.6 cm.)
Location Private Collection
Credit © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

expert perspective

Susan SidlauskasAssociate Professor of Art History, Rutgers University

Lady with Mink and Veil

» Otto Dix (German, 1891–1969)

expert perspective

Susan Sidlauskas Susan Sidlauskas Associate Professor of Art History, Rutgers University

Otto Dix is conveying a lot of the psychological trauma of the years after World War I. So this is very much a social portrait of a particular moment in time, in addition to being a kind of conjuring of an individual. It’s not so much that we’re looking at her features; in fact, we can barely see her features through this veil—it’s called a widow’s veil that’s she’s wearing over her face. When we look at them though, the first thing that appears to us is a kind of clown-like, rose-pink rouge on either cheek and a distended, opened mouth, eyes spaced far apart, and then we look at her body and her body with the sunken breasts. It’s called Woman with Mink. We don’t know the name of the person—she may or may not have been a prostitute, she looks like one, but we’re not sure. It looks like the mink is not the dead animal that someone would wear around their shoulders, but almost something alive because it looks in places around her chest as if this animal with its claws has made marks on her chest. And he actually deliberately cracked the texture of the paint to make her skin look crackled, look wrinkled.

When you first look at her you can imagine her as the victim of ridicule, she looks ridiculous, but yet in many ways as you look at it more closely, she becomes a very sad figure—someone who’s trying, she’s trying to look attractive. The face and body themselves look physically distorted to achieve the psychological anguish, at least economic anguish this woman must be suffering. I mean, one can imagine that a prostitute living in Dresden in the years after World War I is not going to have an easy life. And he conjures all that, I think, by the way he positions her, by the way he seats her, by her frailty, by the exposure of her body, the scratching. And I find the animal particularly disturbing, because it’s almost as if that animal is a way to condense the kind of suffering that she must endure.” 

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