Dix, Otto (German, 1891-1969)

Dr. Mayer-Hermann

Reference Type:
This is a portrait of Otto Dix’s throat specialist, whose patients included many prominent singers and actors. He is represented in his office, surrounded by equipment, including the circular X-ray machine over his head and the light he wore around his forehead when examining patients. The only personal detail in the painting is the blue ring on his pinky finger, a gift from his father when he graduated from medical school. Circular shapes are found everywhere in the composition, echoing and emphasizing the doctor’s own rather round physique and face. Dr. Wilhelm (later William) Mayer-Hermann (1890-1945), a prominent Jewish figure in Berlin, fled the Nazis in 1934 and emigrated to New York City, where he established an extremely successful otolaryngology practice. The portrait had been presented to the Museum of Modern Art in 1932, and legend has it that doctor Mayer-Hermann liked to visit “himself” at the museum, listening to other visitors’ remarks about the portrait. Although many were rather unkind, he nonetheless accepted them with good humor, once saying, “if anyone recognized me from the picture, they would never come to me as a patient!” (Sabine Rewald, Ian Buruma, Matthias Eberle, Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s [New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006], 92) Notes by Mariann Smith
Museum of Modern Art, New York