Richard Ansett

In 1992, I was introduced to the works of Otto Dix at a major retrospective of his works at the Hayward, London. The paintings of his daughter; ‘Nelly mit Spielzeug’ and ‘Nelly mit Blumen’ never left my memory and since then I searched for subject so that I could re-create the paintings as a tribute to Dix’s influence. The influence of an artist can be overwhelming and if they are dead as in Otto Dix’s case it felt form some time that I was possessed by his spirit. Finally in 1998, I came across a little girl sitting alone on the steps outside a pizza restaurant in Belsize Park, London who immediately reminded me of the nature of the girl in the original works. I approached her parents and asked if we could discuss the idea of recreating the paintings and followed this up with meetings with them presenting the original paintings for reference.

Marie Louise had serious medical issues from birth and due to treatment for a brain tumor had been in and out of hospitals her entire life. Due to some of the aggressive treatments, this was the first time she had been able to grow her hair.

Marie Louise was very used to being asked to do very precise things by doctors and this made direction of her physical movement unusually straightforward, particularly in the placing of her hands exactly on the tabletop, holding the flower and tolerating the large pink bow. A make up artist attended to create the dramatic shading and heavy make up to reflect the original works.

The red jumper with white trim and white dress were specially commissioned, the tabletop was sourced to reflect the grain of the wood of the original painting and the flowers were brought in to create the set on an allotment.

I have no memory of her ever speaking during both sessions.

Final Works: Marie Louise with Flowers and Marie Louise with Toys, 1998

Original paintings: Nelly Mit Blumen and Nelly Mit Spielzeug

Photograph of Nelly Dix by Erfurt Hugo, 1925

Photographer’s Sketchbooks edited by Stephen McLaren and Bryan Formhals