Men’s Megalomania and the Delirium of Intergenerational (from Father to Son) Transference of Masculinity

Dix puts himself as the personification of males’ vainglorious obsession to produce a son (to reproduce his own masculinity in his son). Most often men are not conscious of having this irrational need – it‘s simply unconscious. But it expresses itself indirectly in the very surplus pleasure they get from the fact of having son or in impatient insistence on a new pregnancy for their wives after the birth of a daughter as the first child.

Otto Dix - Dadds Sentimental Affection towards His Babby Boy
Otto Dix, Artist’s Family (1927)

In this painting we see on the face of the father (Dix himself) when he looks at his recently born baby-boy – an expression of a pathetic feeling of exaggerated sentimental affection. There is no personal rapport yet between father and son – only excess of narcissistic fascination with the fact that the baby is a boy. Dix’s elder daughter, marginalized by the situation behind the mother, as if intuitively grasps the reason for her father’s passionate fixation on the folded bundle of a masculine gender by showing us the red flower as an explanation for this fixation. The phallic flower she doesn’t possess alienates her from her Dix-father (impersonated by the painter), makes his love for her an object-love, without the paternal symbiosis which unites the father with son.

Otto Dix - Dadd's pathetic Pride For Producing a Son
Otto Dix, “Self-Portrait with my Son” (1930)

Here the facial expression of the father-Dix who is greeted by the son’s urethral gift is not less ridiculous than it is in “The Artist’s Family”. But here the expression is of an unambiguous pride for being able to produce a boy – to reproduce/to multiply his precious masculinity (man’s ultimate gift). The hair on the top of baby’s head is sticking up as if forming a golden crown: almost every father of a baby-boy feels himself a king because he has produced a prince – the inheritor of his glorious virility.

In Dix’s case this pride of being a boy-father of a boy-future-father is enhanced by his identity as a painter. His ability to produce a boy is for him inseparable from his talent as a painter. He feels that his son is his product, result of his creative power, as though he has just painted him – the role of the mother is not only completely disavowed but she is seen as something like a defeated competitor. To feel like this is “crazy” but for our unconscious it can be very real. Look at how absurdly father-Dix keeps up his “erected” brush – as if his son is his painting.

The father’s monumental pride for his best achievement as a man and painter completes the landscape we see behind our protagonists – father and son. It transforms the vast open horizon into a frame of eternity around the immortality of the masculinity realized by the father-son genetic dyad.

The difference between the subject of painterly annunciation (Otto Dix-the artist) and the subject of annunciated (Dix-the father inside the painting) is enlarged and includes a sarcastic distance between the two. As an actor who impersonates the character whom he personally disapproves of (himself as the incarnation of male-hood), Dix by laughing at himself ridicules those men who are under the influence of their masculine-pride-complex.