The Online Otto Dix Project

A German Artist and Print Maker

Portrait of Josef May
Bildnis Josef May

Year: 1926

Description: Josef May was a grain merchant with the firm J. Grunberg in Düsseldorf during the time he sat for this portrait. He was related by marriage to Hugo Simms who sat for Dix in 1925.

Dix painted May with the same dry and aloof objectivity that characterized the best of his Neue Sachlichkeit portraits. In 1926 he was, after all, at the top of his game. It was a time in which he completed Sylvia von Harden, Anita Berber and Albert Fletcheim, works widely regarded as some of his best portraits.

While this painting may be reminscent of Renaissance style, its hallmarks differ thanks to some psychological tension. The sitter is both chiseled like a statue yet full of energy. May's lips are taut and his hands are gnarled. His eyes -- which were meant to work in unison -- seem to fight one another for the brain's attention. 

Provenance: Public Museum

  • Cleveland Museum of Art - present
  • J. H. Wade Fund - 1985
  • Fischer Fine Arts, London - 1985
  • Ghitta Caiserman-Roth, Montreal
  • Hugo Simons, Montreal - 1936
  • Josef May, Düsseldorf - 1926

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  • Sabrina Sohn

    I was wondering if the subject matter himself commissioned the artist to draw the doctor or not? thanks