The Horror of War

Posted by Matt Foley on March 25, 2009 in Blog tagged with

Questions of taxonomy about whether an artistic artefact is Gothic or not are a scholary necessity but can be tiresome and deflect attention away from the art itself. I hope then that you will forgive me for posing this question in what follows.

In the case of the sketches of seminal artist and German First World War soldier Otto Dix I would like to consider the problems of calling these Gothic and, indeed, whether or not there is any problem at all. Perhaps one is that the Gothic has always been aligned with an Othering sense of falsity – ever since the mock-origins of the supposed manuscript form of The Castle of Otranto. I wonder if the reality of War, and the horrors that unfortunately go hand-in-hand with any sense of it, are somehow devalued by being labelled Gothic. The Gothic is fiction. War is not.

I am not suggesting that this is a problem as i think it is clear that in any other case what follows could be considered Gothic sketches and I wonder whether it should matter that they are based on real attrocity or not. But, on the other hand I would feel a tingle of distaste if images of the holocaust were read as Gothic.  This duality can lead to a good discussion though and these sketches are not photographs – they come from the imagination and it is clear that Dix’s imagination has inflected the reality of the situation and enlarged certain aspects of corporeality. I think most of these are from 1923-24 and so there is also the sense of afterwardness and of the War already being passed to consider.

Skull

 

Mealtime In the Trenches

 

Assault Under Gas

 

Corpse In Barbed-Wire

 

Trench Suicide

 

The Soldier

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