“He's an interesting character because he's from a time when people of art got more and more abstract, and he did the opposite,” Brachmann said.
Van Dyke said that he will be looking at a portrait Dix painted of his avant garde colleague and that colleague’s wife and child. The portrait is one of Dix’s early post-World War I works.
“It’s a very untypical painting for the work of Otto Dix because it's quite abstract in comparison to what he normally paints,” Brachmann said.
Van Dyke will not only examine how Dix functioned as an artist in a moment of crisis, but also the individual details and lumps of paint on the work itself.
"The reason I'm doing that is to ask what we might learn by looking really, really, really closely at a picture, and thinking about what the paint, and the way the paint is put on the canvas, might mean,” van Dyke said.
Because Dix’s works are so shocking, people are often only focus on his subject matter, van Dyke said. Instead, he is closely examining Dix’s specific painting style to explore the complexity of the painting’s meaning or message.
Van Dyke was disappointed when he first saw the painting because it is not what he expected from Dix. However, as he more closely looked at it and thought more about its details, it became richer and more interesting.
"Fundamentally, it's really about how we look at things and what is the relationship between form and content and materials,” van Dyke said.
The lecture will be intriguing to those interested in art, gender, race and ethnicity, van Dyke said. Attendees will gain insight into what can be learned from thoughtfully examining a picture and how artists respond to historical challenges.
Brachmann said the lecture will give attendees insight into what was happening in Germany after World War I, which was formative period for many important artists of modernity.
"It's kind of a pressure cooker when society was changing radically, it was after a war that was lost – after a revolution,” van Dyke said. “Social roles were changing. New media were emerging. Everything was in flux and painters were trying to deal with that."