Self Portrait, 1912

  • Otto Dix, German, 1891-1969

Oil on paper mounted on poplar panel

  • Unframed: 29 × 19 1/2 inches (73.7 × 49.5 cm)
  • 34 5/8 × 25 1/2 × 3 1/2 inches (87.9 × 64.8 × 8.9 cm)

Gift of Robert H. Tannahill


Dix’s early work illustrates the renewed interest of the expressionists in their cultural patrimony. This painting pays homage to past masters of the German and Flemish Renaissance in its composition and technical execution. Painted with a glaze technique in which oil and tempera paint are applied in thin, translucent layers, the luminous surface also permitted precise graphic detail. The spare, formal rendering of the young man is enlivened by the intensity of his penetrating gaze.

Signed and dated, upper left: DIX | 1912

until April 29, 1925, Graphisches Kabinett Hugo Erfurth (Dresden, Germany)

April 29, 1925-1937, purchased by Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf (Düsseldorf, Germany)

1937, confiscated by the German Reich (Deutsches Reich)/The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda), Berlin, Germany as “degenerate art”

March 1937, consigned to (Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin, Germany)

January 1938-1951, purchased by Robert H. Tannahill [1893-1969] (Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, USA)

1951-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Twentieth Century Portraits. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1943, p. 70 (ill.). Haass, Lillian Henkel and William A. Bostick. "Annual Report of the Founders Society." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 31, no. 2 (1951–1952): pp. 44, 49. Löffler, Fritz. Otto Dix: Leben und Werk. Dresden, 1960, p. 303, pl. 1 (ill.). Selected Works from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1979, p. 227, no. 178 (ill.). Löffler, Fritz. Otto Dix 1891–1969: Oeuvre der Gemälde. Recklinghausen, 1981, pp. 10, 78, 300, no. 1912/3 (ill.). Uhr, Horst. Masterpieces of German Expressionism at the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1982, p. 62 (ill.). 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, pp. 214-215 (ill.). Robinson, William H. "Otto Dix's 'Portrait of Josef May.'" Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 74, no. 8 (October 1987): 306–331, pp. 306–307 (ill.). Wilkinson, MaryAnn. "'A Great Simplicity of Form': Two Works by Paula Modersohn-Becker." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 80, no. 1/2 (2006): 28–35, p. 33 (ill.). Beal, Graham W.J. and Debra N. Mancoff. Treasures of the DIA. Detroit, 2007, p. 381, no. 305 (ill.). Keyes, George. "Portraiture—Mirror or Mask?" Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 83, no. 1/4 (2009): 4–11, pp. 10–11 (ill.).

Otto Dix, Self Portrait, 1912, oil on paper mounted on poplar panel. Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Robert H. Tannahill, 51.65.