This portrait of Hugo Simons is one of the first paintings Otto Dix executed in egg tempera covered with an oil glaze; the initial graphite lines the artist used to demarcate the figure are still visible through the
many layers of translucent paint and transparent glaze. The painting is a quintessential example of Neue Sachlichkeit, the term coined in 1925 – the very year of this portrait – by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, the director of the Kunsthalle Mannheim, to describe the new realism that emerged during the Weimar Republic, and for which Dix is generally considered one of its greatest exponents. Simons had served as Dix’s lawyer, winning a case for him when a client had refused to pay for a portrait he had commissioned of his daughter on the grounds that it was not a close enough likeness. This masterful portrait followed its sitter from Dusseldorf to Montreal, where the lawyer settled with his wife and young family to escape Nazi Germany. Dix and Simons maintained a written correspondence in the ensuing years, a testament to their long friendship: the artist’s letters are in the Museum’s Archives.