The Kruizenga Art Museum at Hope College will open the exhibition “Gospel Stories: Otto Dix and Sadao Watanabe” on Tuesday, Jan. 10, showcasing the work of two important 20th century artists who were inspired to engage deeply with the Christian faith as a result of their experiences during World War II and its aftermath.
The exhibition will continue through Saturday, May 20. The public is invited, and admission is free.
Represented by 31 prints created in 1960 to illustrate the Gospel of Matthew, Dix brings out the contemporary relevance of the Gospel stories by including references to modern dress, hairstyles and architecture. By contrast, the 16 Watanabe prints in the exhibition, dating from the 1960s and 1970s, portray stories from all the Gospels in a cheerful, folksy style reflecting the joyful faith that sustained the artist through his many years of struggle.
Otto Dix was a German artist associated with the Expressionist and New Objectivity movements. At 18, he trained enrolled in the Dresden Academy of Applied Arts but was forced to leave to join the German army at the outbreak of World War I, surviving four years as a combat soldier on both the Western and Eastern fronts. Badly traumatized by his war experiences, he resumed his artist career in Dresden in 1918. Dix believed that art should be rooted in reality and should promote social and political engagement. His satirical, critical art was despised by the Nazis, who removed him from his teaching position at the Dresden Academy after they came to power. After World War II, Dix continued to work as an artist, drawing inspiration from his newfound Christian faith with profound themes of sacrifice and redemption.
Sadao Watanabe is recognized around the world as one of Japan’s most important and original prints artists. During his difficult childhood Watanabe turned to the Christian faith, attributing his ultimate recovery from tuberculous to the power of God. He originally trained as a textile dyer but ultimately learned traditional techniques of katazome stencil decoration, which he used not only for designing textiles but also for printmaking. The war years were difficult for Watanabe, who was forced to leave Tokyo after his home was bombed, but the hardships of the war only strengthened his faith and his belief in the power of art to touch people’s souls. After the war and as Watanabe’s reputation grew, he was able to focus exclusively on depicting Christian subjects.
In accordance with the museum’s exhibition and theme, the college’s Chapel and Gathering services, led by Campus Ministries, have been studying the book of Matthew with occasional usage of images from Dix’s collection.
Also starting in January is the debut of the new monthly community event series, KAM: After Hours. On the last Thursday of the month the museum will remain open until 8 p.m. to provide community members the opportunity to explore the galleries and engage every month in a new activity.
The After Hours series will take place on Jan. 26, Feb. 23, March 30 and April 27 from 6 p.m. to 8p.m. The event is free and all age groups are welcome.
The Kruizenga Art Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional information about special programs or events related to the exhibition will be available on the museum’s website hope.edu/kam or via social media.
The museum functions as an educational resource for Hope College and the greater West Michigan community. The museum features two public galleries as well as a classroom and climate-controlled storage space for the 2,000-object permanent collection. It is named in honor of a leadership gift from Dr. Richard and the late Margaret Kruizenga of Holland, each of whom graduated from Hope in 1952.
The Kruizenga Art Museum is located at 271 Columbia Ave., between 10th and 13th streets.