Transformations: A.Y. Jackson & Otto Dix
September 7, 2013 - January 12, 2014
Drawing on rich historical and art resources, including works drawn from public and private collections in Canada, the United States and Germany, this groundbreaking exhibition of war-influenced paintings, drawings and prints reveals how this tumultuous period shaped the artistic output of both men. This resulted in very different, and often powerful, expressions of Canadian and German national identity.
The exhibition features nationally important artwork by Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson and significant works (some never before seen in Canada) by famed German artist Otto Dix. The exhibition shows how war engendered strong nationalist feelings and attitudes toward world conflict in the two artists, which they expressed in landscape paintings until the end of their lives.
… As a soldier, A.Y. Jackson experienced Canada's First World War successes and tragedies firsthand, which marked his emergence as a Canadian nationalist, providing the foundation for his life's endeavour to be a painter of Canada and a nation builder through art.
Not only was he an official First World War artist but he lobbied ceaselessly for the existence of a Second World War artist program and, as a Canadian War Records artist and committee member, largely selected the artists appointed. During the second conflict he founded a scheme to distribute tens of thousands of reproductions of Canadian art, examples of his own work included, to remind troops of what they were fighting for, while simultaneously contributing his talents to wartime poster design.
Like Jackson, Otto Dix's artistic direction was shaped by his experiences as a soldier in the mud and trenches of First World War battlefields. Probably the best known twentieth century German artist overseas and in his own country, his artistic direction was influenced by movements including Expressionism, Futurism and Dadaism. Dix often turned to landscape painting to express his feelings about German identity, to depict war's destructive impact on nature and humanity, and to mourn what he viewed as perversion of German nationalism during the rise of the National Socialist Party.
In 1937, Dix's work featured prominently in the Nazi exhibition, Degenerate Art, and much of his artwork was subsequently destroyed. In 1939, he was briefly jailed and, in 1945, he was conscripted into the German army but was captured shortly afterwards. In the aftermath of the Second World War Dix continued to return to the theme of war's destructive impact on nature and humanity in his art.
Transformations explains how the brutal destruction Jackson and Dix witnessed as soldiers in the First World War influenced their landscape paintings, and explores how ideas about the birth, death and rebirth of nations in wartime contributed to their art.