Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

The Businessman Max Roesberg, Dresden

Artist:
Otto Dix (German, Untenhaus 1891–1969 Singen)
Date:
1922
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
37 1/8 × 25 1/8 in. (94.3 × 63.8 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1992
Accession Number:
1992.146
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 903
Dix portrayed his subjects with a hard-edged, detached realism, accentuating unattractive features and signs of age. Since this portrait was a commission, his treatment of Max Roesberg was rather kind, and he highlights Roesberg’s business prowess—which was short-lived—in several ways. The room is cluttered with materials central to a productive professional practice, such as a telephone, calendar, and tools for correspondence, while the palette of greens and blues alludes to the color of money. Moreover, Roesberg’s body is almost completely obscured by his business suit—a mark of his professional identity.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower center): DIX/ 22
the sitter, Dresden (1922–ca. 1937/39; commissioned from the artist; between ca. 1937 and 1939 to Lithauer); his niece, Hannah Lithauer, Cologne and New York (from ca. 1937/39); by descent to private collection, United States (until 1992; sale, Sotheby's, Berlin, May 29, 1992, no. 32, sold to MMA)

Berlin. Martin-Gropius-Bau. "The Age of Modernism: Art in the 20th Century," May 7–July 27, 1997, no. 98.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "German Drawings and Prints from the Weimar Republic (1919–33)," July 2–October 31, 2004, no catalogue.

Dresden. Palais Brühlsche Terrasse. Zeitgenössische Kunst. "Von Monet bis Mondrian: Meisterwerke der Moderne aus Dresdner Privatsammlungen der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts," September 16, 2006–January 14, 2007, no. 89 (on loan until November 2006).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s," November 14, 2006–February 19, 2007, no. 15.

Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "The Mirror and the Mask: Portraiture in the Age of Picasso," June 17–September 16, 2007, no. 73.

Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. "Match. Otto Dix and the Art of Portraiture," December 1, 2007–April 6, 2008, unnumbered cat. (p. 232).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.

New York. Neue Galerie. "Otto Dix," March 11–August 30, 2010, no. 82.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Otto Dix," September 24, 2010–January 2, 2011, no. 82.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933," October 4, 2015–January 18, 2016, unnumbered cat. (p. 273).

Carl Einstein. Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. 3rd ed. Berlin, 1931, pp. 185, 644, ill. p. 499, as "Bildnis" in the collection of Dr. Rösberg, Dresden.

Wolfgang Zorn. "Das Deutsche Unternehmerporträt in Sozialgeschichtlicher Betrachtung." Tradition: Zeitschrift für Firmengeschichte und Unternehmerbiographie 7 (April 1962), p. 82, ill. p. 145, as "Der sächsische Maschinenkaufmann Max Roesberg".

Fritz Löffler. "Kunst als Sinngebung unserer Zeit: Otto Dix 75 Jahre alt." Die Kunst und das schöne Heim 65 (December 1966), p. 115, fig. 7, as "Kaufmann Roesberg/ Roesberg, the Merchant".

Fritz Löffler. Otto Dix 1891–1969: Oeuvre der Gemälde. Recklinghausen, 1981, pp. 20, 305, no. 1922-9, ill.

Fritz Löffler. Otto Dix: Life and Work. (1st ed., Dresden, 1960). New York, 1982, p. 45, notes that the letter on the desk is addressed to the artist; remarks that the meticulous rendering of the telephone suggests that it was "as important to [Dix] as the subject of the portrait itself".

Sabine Rewald in "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1991–1992." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 50 (Autumn 1992), p. 63, ill. (color), calls it "The Businessman Max Roesberg".

Carol Vogel. "The Art Market: Portrait's Round Trip." New York Times (June 12, 1992), p. C13.

"Metropolitan Museum Pays Top Price for Dix at Sotheby's Berlin." Art Newsletter 17 (July 7, 1992), p. 1.

Eleanor Heartney. "Metropolitan, New York. 'Why Buy a Monk When You Can Have a Cardinal'." Art News 92 (April 1993), p. 109, ill. (color).

Michael Kimmelman. "Art." New York Times (January 1, 1993), p. C28.

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. (1st ed., 1983). New York, 1994, p. 440, no. 16, ill. (color), calls it "The Businessman Max Roesberg".

Sabine Rewald. "Tales of Two Sitters: Notes on Two Dix Portraits." Burlington Magazine 138 (April 1996), pp. 249–52, fig. 32 (color), notes that this is the first painting by Dix and the first example of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) to enter the MMA collection; identifies the sitter as a co-owner of Roesberg & Ehrlich, a metal, mining, and foundry company; recounts that after the acquisition of this work was reported [Ref. Vogel 1992], relatives of Roesberg provided biographical details as well as their own recollections of disliking this portrayal of a successful businessman, quoting one: "'He owed everybody money and we had to support him. Who would have believed that our ne'er-do-well cousin would end up in the Met?'"; reproduces a photograph of Roesberg in the early 1920s looking years younger than depicted in this work.

Sabine Rewald. "Dix at the Met." Metropolitan Museum Journal 31 (1996), pp. 219–23, 224 nn. 6, 9, fig. 3.

Sabine Rewald. Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2006, pp. 10, 60, 79–80, no. 15, ill. p. 81 (color), suggests that Roesberg and Dix met at the Hirschen-Club, "a social club for Dresden businessmen that both frequented".

Heike Biedermann, Andreas Dehmer, and Mathias Wagner in Von Monet bis Mondrian: Meisterwerke der Moderne aus Dresdner Privatsammlungen der ersten Hälfte des 20.Jahrhunderts. Exh. cat., Palais Brühlsche Terrasse. Zeitgenössische Kunst, Dresden. Munich, 2006, pp. 204, 293, 294 n. 6, no. 89, ill. p. 205 (color).

Paloma Alarcó in The Mirror and the Mask: Portraiture in the Age of Picasso. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2007, pp. 166, 320, no. 73, ill. p. 179 (color).

Daniel Spanke. Getroffen. Otto Dix und die Kunst des Porträts/ Match. Otto Dix and the Art of Portraiture. Ed. Marion Ackermann. Exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. [Cologne], 2007, pp. 243, 247, 249, 251, 406–7, ill. p. 232 (color).

Gerd Presler. "Ausstellungen. Stuttgart. Otto Dix. 'Ich muß Sie malen! Ich muß!'." Weltkunst 78 (January 2008), p. 92.

Roberta Smith. "Art: Time, the Infinite Storyteller." New York Times (January 1, 2010), p. 28.

Sabine Rewald in Otto Dix. Ed. Olaf Peters. Exh. cat., Neue Galerie. New York, 2010, pp. 130, 245, no. 82, ill. p. 131 (color) [reprints Ref. Rewald 2006].

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 414, ill. (color).

Matthew S. Witkovsky in New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933. Ed. Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eckmann. Exh. cat., Museo Correr, Venice. Los Angeles, 2015, pp. 108, 335, ill. p. 273 (color).



A pencil study for this portrait depicts Roesberg looking to his right (MMA 1996.375ab).
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