Friday 26 January 2024

The Nazi Attitude to Art


We need to remember first of all that Hitler was a failed artist. He didn’t manage to get into art school after applying twice and he spent a lot of his time before he became the great dictator painting pictures on post cards. He liked Romanticism and detested modern art.  For him painting had to be realistic and heroic.

A main concern for the Nazis was getting rid of Jewish influence in art.  For this reason they admired classical art, Greek and Roman, as this had no Jewish input. They also despised art produced by homosexuals and communist artists.

Much modern art and what we may now label “modernism” was condemned as being “degenerate”.  Expressionism was particularly despised. Also classed as “degenerate” was what we refer to as Cubism, Dada, Fauvism and Surrealism. Works by Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse were destroyed.  

In Munich in 1937 there was an exhibition of “Entartete Kunst” which showed much of the “degenerate” art deliberately displayed in chaotic manner to discredit it. This includes work from Klee and Kandinsky. The Nazis had confiscated 650 modern paintings, graphic works and sculptures from 32 museums.

Meanwhile, around the corner at the respected Haus der Deutschen Kunst there was a more sober exhibition of Nazi approved artists.

In the 1940s, the Nazis compiled a list of favoured artists. These were considered to be ‘divinely gifted’.  42,000 artist were given government approval and had to register with the Reich Chamber of Visual Arts. They were not allowed to be “politically” unreliable and could be expelled if they were deemed to be so, A tribunal was created in 1936.

One favoured sculptor was Arno Breker who produced between 1933 and 1945works that resembled Greek sculptures. He continued to work on this style into the 1950s.  

The Reichskulturkammer was established in 1933. This was to promote the Aryan race through art. This marked the end for the Bauhaus art school and movement, situated in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau. The Bauhaus created what might be called German modernism and which became by Nazi definition degenerate. The Bauhaus also fostered the idea of a community of artists working together. It was in its time the most progressive school of art known.  

Art was used to create propaganda posters:

The work produced by the Nazis was classical and a little dull.         

Much of the Nazi produced art still exists and there has been a call for a work by Adolf Ziegler to be taken down.  Ziegler  persecuted Jews and “degenerate” artists. The work ‘The Four Elements’ is displayed in Munich’s Pintothek museum    

The Nazis also stole great works of art from Jewish owners. Some valuable works of art were hidden and served as a  type of investment. This led to some talented artists producing forgeries in order to keep the original out of Nazi hands. Many British artistic treasures were hidden inside mountains in Wales in case of a German invasion.

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