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Art and Images in Psychiatry
September 2006

The Scat Players

Author Affiliations


Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63(9):955. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.63.9.955

I had to experience all the ghastly, bottomless depths of life for myself; it's for that reason that I went to war . . . that I volunteered. . . . The war was a horrible thing but there was something tremendous about it, too. . . . You have to have seen human beings in this unleashed state to know what human nature is. . . .—Otto Dix, 19631(p22)

Otto Dix (1891-1969) carried 2 items in his knapsack during the First World War, Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844-1900) The Joyous (Gay) Science and the Bible.2 At age 20 years, like many young men of his era, he began to avidly read Nietzsche's writings seeking to affirm life, to cast traditional beliefs aside, and to experience the full range of life's joys, pain, and cruelty, to experience its depths.1-3 That is why he joined the German army at the outbreak of the war in 1914 and fought until it ended in 1918. He was repeatedly wounded and once was near death from a shrapnel wound to his neck. He rose to the rank of vice sergeant major and won the Iron Cross for valor. Dix observed everything, completing more than 300 drawings and sketches during his wartime service. He had studied at the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts and honed his drawing talent on the battlefield between attacks.3