Portrait of Anita Berber
Otto Dix
Egg Tempera on Wood 1925

Dix painted this portrait of dancer Anita Berber, a huge star in her day and widely loved for her erotic dance routines and bold sexuality. Her stage presence, outlandish costumes, gaudy make up, and flaming red hair assured her of cult status. She often performed in the nude, her choreographed routines baring titles like Suicide, Madhouse, and Body on the Dissecting Table. In the Berlin of the mid-1920's, controversy's name was Anita Berber.

Miss Berber appeared in several movies but felt most at home on the stage. She divorced her aristocratic husband for one of the best known lesbians in Berlin, and the two flamboyant lovers frequented all of the top bars and clubs together. By the mid-20's Berber had become hopelessly addicted to opium and cocaine, and she passed away in 1929 from tuberculosis.

This amazing painting by Dix managed to sum up the spirit of the time like no other work he had created. The sheer technical mastery of the painting is a marvel in itself. Painted with egg tempera on wood, the translucent quality of the paint appears to make the subject glow. The provocative costume and body posture of Berber is heightened by the artist's masterful use of tempera - the sitter's sexuality exudes from every pore, bathing everything in an utterly fantastic red. Such scenes and personalities were soon to be extinguished by the Nazi regime.

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