Degenerate Art Exhibition/Entartete Kunst Munich 1937 – Exhibition Images/Texts

Hello. I’ve created this blog post in response to the recent reveal by Germany of 1,500 paintings being found in a Munich apartment from the Degenerate Art exhibition era.
photograph of silver paint on my hands in studio, Los Angeles, during the creation of Nine Grayscale paintings.
Vincent Johnson – in Los Angeles studio working on Nine Grayscale Paintings, 2011


When Hitler defined art

In July 1937, Hitler declared war on modern art with the opening of the Haus der Kunst in Munich. Seventy-five years later, an exhibition examines the historical legacy of the museum as an icon of ideological power.

Christian Philipp Müller races at top speed through the large exhibition hall of the Haus der Kunst in Munich. There, the Swiss artist enters the space in which Adolf Hitler threatened to purge modernity from art in 1937. Müller has created a counterpoint: In place of swastikas and portraits of the Führer is a larger-than-life picture of young woman in a fashion show.

It’s a snapshot: The Second World War is over and people are drawn towards lightness and color. A model on the runway parades past the audience. Her face cannot be seen, just an absurdly large structure which could well be a hat.

The image from the fashion show is representative of the changeable history of the Haus der Kunst. American occupying troops celebrated the end of the war here, transforming one of the exhibition halls into a basketball court. The models came in the 1950s.

What the backs of paintings reveal

“I was asked to intervene,” said Christian Philipp Müller. His task was to offer advice during the examination of the museum’s own troubled history. Adolf Hitler himself opened the Haus der Deutschen Kunst (House of German Art), as it was then called, on July 18, 1937. From then on, art was required to reflect National Socialist ideology. Art had to appeal to the masses, be simple to understand, and depict scenes from everyday “German” life. Abstraction was considered “un-German,” and was ostracized and forbidden.

The Histories of Conflict exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich The “Histories of Conflict” exhibition allows visitors to view backs artworks

At the current show, “Histories in Conflict,” 75 years later, roles appear to have been reversed. That which was previously forbidden now hangs on the walls in the exhibition hall, while the examples of “German art,” as Hitler defined it, are attached to a steel construction, similar to a collection of wire fences, in the exhibition hall.

The staging is part of Christian Philip Müller’s “intervention” and the result is that the back of the “German” artworks are now visible to the public. Visitors can now view the tag attached to the back of painting, depicting a ruined French town on which the words “Acquired by: The Führer” are written. Other motifs in the show include the image of a male elk in the German forest or a u-boat storming through the Atlantic Ocean. The pictures seem bizarre and anachronistic, even for the circumstances back then.

The National Socialists showed the world what they understood to be “German art” at the “Great German Art Exhibition” at the Haus der Kunst, and then, just around the corner, there was the accompanying “Degenerate Art” show. Anything which had any kind of status in the modern visual arts was suddenly banned: Picasso, Kandinsky, Beckmann, Klee.

“Modernism is now forbidden,” commented the New York Times on July 25, 1937.

Embarrassing slip-up

Rudolf Belling's 1925 bust of Toni Freeden An embarrassing slip-up: this work by Rudolf Belling was labeled “degenerate”

The organizers of the two shows didn’t realize that a one artist, Rudolf Belling, actually had works in both shows. While his sculpture of boxer Max Hemming was part of the Haus der Kunst exhibition, two other works were included in the “Degenerate Art” show. When those responsible realized their embarrassing slip-up, the two artworks in the degenerate art show where quietly removed.

The National Socialist regime assiduously celebrated the triumphal procession of German art in its home city of Munich. A model of the Haus der Kunst had already been paraded through the streets of Munich during the planning phase of construction. The model was also proudly presented at the Paris Exposition in 1937. Picasso’s “Guernica” – the world’s most famous anti-war painting – hung in a neighboring pavilion.

White chocolate and gold

Rudolf Bellings 1929 sculpture of Max Hemming Meanwhile, Belling’s sculpture of boxer Max Hemming was proudly presented as great “German” art

The Führer liked the building so much so that Herman Göring gave Hitler a gold model of it for his 50th birthday. For the exhibition “75 Years of the Haus der Kunst,” Christian Philipp Müller commissioned a 160-kilogram model out of white chocolate – a play on the sweet, seductive draw Hitler’s ideology had on the masses.

The Haus der Kunst did not deal with its own history in any scholarly sense until the mid-1990s, said Sabine Brantl, the historian who curated the current exhibition. People weren’t prepared to deal with this difficult history directly after the war. The desire was to return to “normality,” even in art, so that they would not be reminded of the dogmas of the Nazi period.

“It was locked away very quickly,” she said. “Maybe they also didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that many of images were much to the public’s taste.” Society quickly swept up in the economic miracle, suppressing thoughts of the past.

A model of the Haus der Kunst made from 160 kilograms of white chocolate A model of the Haus der Kunst made from 160 kilograms of white chocolate

But the present is unthinkable without some relation to the past, explained Okwui Enwezor. The internationally acclaimed Nigerian curator has been director of the Haus der Kunst since the end of 2011.

“Here the past, there the present – it doesn’t work like that,” he explained. “I always say, it’s our job to think historically about the present, since the present is always embedded in the past.”

The documents in the archives have been brought back to life as opportunities to reflect on the past, Enwezor said. That the exhibition “Image Counter Image,” examining the power of images, is running concurrently was not intentional but fits perfectly within the context.

“There is a dialogue between the two exhibitions. It’s about how we use art and images, about what world-view we are portraying,” commented Enwezor. The images, media and world-views which emerge from the dialogue encompass themes which are as relevant today as they were 75 year ago.

Author: Birgit Görtz / hw
Editor: Kate Bowen


Top 10 Famous Pieces of Art Stolen by the Nazis

Before the outbreak of World War I, Adolf Hitler was a practicing artist.  On two separate occasions, Hitler was denied admission to the Academy for Art Studies in Vienna.  He took art very seriously and during his 12-year reign as German Führer, the international art industry was demolished.  It has been estimated that Hitler stole over 750,000 artworks during the war.  The years between 1933 and 1945 are a black hole in the art community, with thousands of pieces of art changing hands and going missing.

During World War II, the Nazis went on a rampage destroying and stealing European art.  Priceless pieces of art were auctioned off at extremely low prices.  This has created a major problem in the art community that remains evident today.  People purchased stolen art and the victim’s families want their possessions back.  In many cases, proving the legal rights to a piece of art is a difficult and time consuming process.  This article will be examining 10 famous pieces of art that were stolen by the Nazis.

10. Saint Justa and Saint Rufina

Artist: Bartolome Esteban Murillo

St. Justa and St. Rufina

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo is one of the most important Spanish painters in history.  He was alive during the 17th century and is a cherished painter of the Baroque period of art.  Murillo is probably best known for his religious works, but also painted many portraits of everyday life.  In 1943, the Allied armies formed a coalition of men whose goal was to assist in the protection of valuable art and national monuments.  The group became known as the Monuments Men.  The Monuments Men were vital in the process of gathering stolen art and returning it to the rightful owner.  As the Allied Forces liberated Nazi-occupied territories, Monuments Men were present at the front lines.  In Germany alone, U.S forces found approximately 1,500 repositories of art and cultural objects, with hundreds-of-thousands of artifacts.  Some of the most identifiable pieces of art were immediately returned to their rightful owners.  However, thousands of artifacts were never claimed or stolen.


Monument Men organizations still exist today, with the goal of tracking down and returning stolen art.  Recently, a member of the organization stumbled upon an old picture taken during World War II.  It showed a photo of Murillos famous pair of paintings titled Saint Justa and Saint Rufina.  Immediately the connection was made with the Meadows Museum in Dallas, which houses the paintings.  The Meadows Museum holds one of the largest collections of Spanish art outside of Spain, with masterpieces by some of the world’s greatest painters.  After some intense research, it was confirmed that the museum had the two painting and they were in fact stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

This was accomplished by examining the back of the picture frames, which contained a number R1171.  This number is consistent with art stolen by Germany and stands for Rothschild, 1171, which is the 1,171st object stolen from the Rothschilds.  The Rothschild family was looted in France, 1941.  Like all stolen art, a major legal battle has pursued, as the Meadows Museum legally purchased the portraits at an auction, but the paintings whereabouts before the auction are confusing.  The two portraits are estimated to be worth more than $10 million.

9. Painter on the Road to Tarascon

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

painter on the road to tarascon

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter that died in 1890 at the age of 37.  He is one of the most renowned and well known painters in the history of art.  On January 31, 1933 Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany.  One of his first actions was the “cleansing of the German culture,” which included book burnings and the labeling of degenerate art.  Degenerate art included all types of modern artistic expression.  Any artist, past or present, that was not seen as having Aryan blood was deemed degenerate.  Hitler made it a high priority to track down all degenerate art and steal it.  If you were labeled a degenerate artist then you were not allowed to paint.

Nazi soldiers would even make routine house calls to ensure that some artists were not painting.  The abuse was inflicted on many modern German painters, including Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who was labeled degenerate and had all of his over 600 works sold or destroyed.  Kirchner would commit suicide in 1938.  The Nazis destroyed hundreds of famous paintings and the ones that survived were featured in a “Degenerate Art Show.”  It was claimed that this show was meant to incite further revulsion against the “perverse Jewish spirit.”  The famous pieces of art were crowded into small rooms and often displayed with a hanging cord.  According to the history books, the first room contained art considered demeaning of religion, the second featured works by Jewish artists in particular, and the third contained works deemed insulting to the people of Germany.

Some of the artists featured in the show were Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh.  After the exhibit ended, the famous pieces of art were either destroyed or sold at auctions.  A large amount of “degenerate art” by Picasso, Dalí, Ernst, Klee, Léger and Miró was destroyed in a bonfire on the night of July 27, 1942 in Paris.  In 1939, a stolen self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh was auctioned at Gallerie Fisher, Lucerne, for $US 40.000.  One of the most famous paintings to be burned during World War II is the Painter on the Road to Tarascon by Vincent van Gogh.  It is not known for sure how the painting was burned, but it is thought to have perished when the Allied forces bombed Magdeburg, setting fire to the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum, which contained stolen art.


The Painter on the Road to Tarascon was lost forever when it became a causality of the Second World War, but the portrait has left a lasting impression.  It remains one of the most cherished pieces of art that was lost in the war.  The painting shows a lonely portrait of Vincent van Gogh traveling.  The painting was a heavy influence on artist Francis Bacon, who described it as a haunting image of van Gogh, showing him as an alienated outsider.  Vincent van Gogh was quoted as saying “Real painters do not paint things as they are…They paint them as they themselves feel them to be.”

8. Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

portrait of dr gachet


In 1933, the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh was put on Hitler’s list of “degenerate artists.”  Many of van Gogh’s most famous pieces of art were stolen from their owners and displayed in mock museums.  One of these paintings was the famous Portrait of Dr. Gachet.  The month before Vincent van Gogh committed suicide, he painted two different copies of the Portrait of Dr. Gachet.  He wrote a letter to his brother regarding the painting, “I’ve done the portrait of M. Gachet with a melancholy expression, which might well seem like a grimace to those who see it… Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent, that is how many portraits ought to be done… There are modern heads that may be looked at for a long time, and that may perhaps be looked back on with longing a hundred years later.”

In the case of the Portrait of Dr. Gachet, the Nazis didn’t steal it from a private collector, but stripped the art from the Städel museum in Frankfort, Germany.  The Städel acquired the portrait in 1911 and it was confiscated in 1937.  Nazi leader Hermann Göring realized the value of the art, so he decided to sell it and make a profit.  The Portrait of Dr. Gachet was auctioned off and purchased by a German collector who quickly sold the art to Siegfried Kramarsky.  Kramarsky was a Jewish financier that fled to New York in 1938 to escape the Holocaust.  He purchased the art for $53,000.


On May 15, 1990, exactly 100 years after the paintings creation, the family of Siegfried Kramarsky sold their copy of the Portrait of Dr. Gachet for $82.5 million. At that time in history, it was the most expensive piece of art ever sold.  It was purchased by Ryoei Saito, who was a Japanese businessman.  Upon Saito’s death in 1996, the painting was thought to have been sold, but no information was made available to the public. Various reports in 2007 claimed that the painting was sold to the Austrian-born investment fund manager Wolfgang Flöttl, but this was never confirmed.

Many questions remain regarding the history of the Portrait of Dr. Gachet.  In this specific case, a Jewish man was able to obtain the stolen art.  If a high powered German, Russian, or American businessman had profited off of the art, I think more people would have taken offense.  The second version of the Portrait of Dr. Gachet is currently in the possession of the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris, France.

7. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Artist: Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I

Gustav Klimt was an Austrian born Symbolist painter.  During his lifetime, Klimt created many portraits, murals, and sketches.  The primary subject of his work was usually the female body.  In 1904, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer hired Gustav Klimt to create a portrait of his wife Adele.  The work took Klimt three years to complete and the portrait is made of oil and gold on canvas.  Adele Bloch-Bauer died of meningitis in 1925.  In 1938, all of Ferdinand Block-Bauer’s property was put under “Protective Custody” by the National Socialist party.  During the war, everything was taken away from Ferdinand and he eventually died in Zürich, Switzerland in November of 1945.

The will of Ferdinand Block-Bauer’s made no mention of donating his property to a museum.  After the war, the three living Bloch-Bauer siblings attempted to retain some of the famous paintings from the Austrian government, who were given the pieces of art after Nazi Germany was liberated.  Nothing happened for decades until 1998 when the Austrian government decided that they would return art that had been illegally seized by the Nazis.  However, in order to get the paintings returned, rightful ownership needs to be proved in a court of law, which can be expensive.  In 2006, the Austrian court ruled that Block-Bauer heir Maria Altmann was the rightful owner of the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and four other paintings by Gustav Klimt.


Portraits by Gustav Klimt are extremely rare and valuable.  After regaining the rights to the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Maria Altmann decided to sell it.  In June of 2006 the portrait became the highest selling piece of art up to that point in history.  American businessman Ronald Lauder purchased the painting for $135 million and placed it in his Neue Galerie, which is located in New York City.  The Neve Galerie is highly dedicated to pieces of Jewish art that were stolen from the Nazis and recovered.  Ronald Lauder was quoted as saying that the Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer I is his museums “Mona Lisa.”  In November of 2006, the second painting that Gustav Klimt made of Adele Bloch-Bauer (Adele II) sold for almost $88 million. Eventually, all five of the Block-Bauer’s Klimt portraits were sold, with a grand total of approximately $325 million.

6. Foundation E.G. Bührle

Paul Cézanne, Jeune garçon au gilet rouge

Paul Cézanne, Jeune garçon au gilet rouge

When researching the history of famous art, it is shocking the amount of paintings that have a large gap in documentation around the time of World War II.  Hundreds of valuable portraits changed hands during the war, but the specifics surrounding the sales are unknown.  This entry will not be examining one specific piece of art, but rather a man named Emil Georg Bührle.  Bührle was a born in Pforzheim, Germany in 1890 and was a German cavalry officer in the Imperial army from 1914 to 1919.  In the 1920s, Bührle became the CEO of a large company and was moved to Zürich, Switzerland.  Bührle was always interested in art and he started a huge collection during World War II.  He took the opportunity of war to build one of the most prestigious private art galleries in the world.  Today, his museum is known as the Foundation E.G. Bührle and is located in Zürich, Switzerland.

The collection of art at the museum is quite impressive and contains many famous painting and sculptures from Old Masters and Modern artists, including works from Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.  You might say that there is no proof that any of these paintings are from stolen victims of the Holocaust.  However, after World War II, Emil Georg Bührle was forced to give back 13 paintings to French-Jewish families who had their property taken away during the war.  A book was put together with a list of artworks reported stolen and Bührle had 13 of them.  The amount of valuable artwork that Bührle obtained at a low price is astonishing.  The art collection housed at the Foundation E.G. Bührle is worth hundreds-of-millions of dollars.


The Foundation E.G. Bührle houses Der Sämann by Vincent van Gogh, Der Selbstmörder by Edouard Manet, Junge Frau by Amedeo Modigliani, and countless other famous works.  On February 10, 2008, one of the largest art heists in history took place at the museum.  Armed gunman stormed the museum shortly before closing and stole four famous paintings valued at $162.5 million dollars.  The most expensive painting taken was The Boy in the Red Vest by Paul Cézanne, valued at around $80 million.  The three other paintings stolen were Count Lepic and His Daughters by Edgar Degas, Poppies near Vétheuil by Claude Monet, and van Gogh’s Blossoming Chestnut Branches.  To date, the van Gogh and Monet portraits have been recovered, while the other two remain missing.


Share the post “Top 10 Famous Pieces of Art Stolen by the Nazis”

5. Altarpiece of Veit Stoss

Sculptor: Veit Stoss

Altarpiece of Veit Stoss

Veit Stoss is a famous German sculptor who passed away in 1533.  His career spanned the transitional period between the late Gothic and the Northern Renaissance style of architecture.  Stoss primarily worked as a wood sculptor.  In the early part of his career he was approached by the people of Kraków, Poland and asked to build a magnificent altarpiece.  He agreed and developed the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss, which is the largest gothic altarpiece in the world.  It measures 13 m high and 11 m wide when the panels are open.  The piece is covered with incredible statue figures, which are more than 12 ft. tall and are carved from the tree trunk of a lime.

Prior to the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler was well aware of the historic altarpiece and unjustly felt that it was his because Veit Stoss was a German sculptor.  Before the invasion of Poland, the altarpiece was taken apart and hid in various locations.  However, it was still discovered by the Nazis and stolen.  A German unit called the Sonderkommando Paulsen located the crates containing the altarpiece and had the statues and panels shipped to Berlin.  It was kept at Nuremberg Castle.


During the war, many members of the Polish resistance relayed the message that the altarpiece was being held at Nuremberg Castle.  Luckily, it was not significantly damaged during the liberation of Nazi Germany and was recovered by Allied forces.  The Polish National Treasure was immediately returned and in 1957 it was placed in St. Mary’s Church, Kraków, Poland, where it remains today.  The altarpiece underwent restoration from 1946-1949 to fix the structural damage caused by the Nazis.

4. Place de la Concorde

Artist: Edgar Degas

Place de la Concorde

Edgar Degas is considered one of the founders of the Impressionism art movement.  He was a popular French artist that lived predominately during the 19th century.  After the collapse of Nazi Germany, the Red Army was the first to invade Berlin.  During this time, the Soviets discovered hundred of hidden repositories of art.  The Soviet government has been criticized over the years for not reporting many of these discoveries.  In 1991, it became known that some paintings looted by the Red Army in Germany had been put on display at the Hermitage Museum located in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  After intense pressures, the museum announced in 1994 that they had displayed some pieces of art that had been looted from German private collections.

One should realize that art taken from German homes and underground storage facilities in 1945 consisted of a large amount of stolen goods.  The exhibition “Hidden Treasures Revealed” premiered in 1995 at the museum.  It consisted of 74 separate paintings that were displayed for the first time, including the world famous Place de la Concorde by Edgar Degas.  Place de la Concorde was painted by Degas in 1875.  It depicts the cigar smoking Vicomte Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic, his daughters, and his dog.  It also shows a solitary man in Place de la Concorde in Paris.


Place de la Concorde has always been considered one of Degas signature portraits.  It was thought lost after World War II, but showed up at the Hermitage Museum in 1995.  The famous painting remains on display at the Hermitage.  Another painting that appeared at the Hermitage in 1995 is the van Gogh masterpiece White House at NightWhite House at Night was also thought to be lost after the war.  It was painted six weeks before van Gogh’s death.  In December 2004, another looted work was discovered at the museum, the Venus disarming Mars by Rubens.  The French master Henri Matisse also has many of his early paintings on display at the Hermitage.  During World War II, Matisse’s paintings were widely distributed and stolen.  Today, they can be found in museums all over the world.  The story of how the Place de la Concorde survived is not documented to the public.  It is simply listed at the Hermitage as “provenance unknown.”

3. The Astronomer

Artist: Johannes Vermeer

vermeer astronomer

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter who lived from 1632-1675.  During his lifetime, Vermeer was moderately successful and has since become one of the most well known painters of the Baroque period of art.  He tended to paint portraits of domestic middle class life and many of Vermeer’s paintings were of scientists.  Hitler was a big follower of Johannes Vermeer and made it his ultimate goal to own all of his paintings.  In 1940, one of Vermeer’s most cherished works, The Astronomer, was owned by a French man named Edouard de Rothschild.  After the German invasion of France, the painting was stolen by the Nazis.  The Astronomer became one of Hitler’s prized possessions and was meant to be the focal point of the Führermuseum.  The Führermuseum was a large museum complex that Hitler planned on creating.  It was meant to store and display all of the plundered European art.  A black swastika was stamped on the back of The Astronomer, where it remains today.


The Astronomer was finished by Vermeer around 1668.  The art was created with oil on canvas, and measures 51cm x 45cm.  The painting is linked with another famous Vermeer portrait named The Geographer.  Both paintings are thought to portray the same man, which could be Anton van Leeuwenhoek.  The Astronomer shows incredible detail.  In the painting the book located on the table is turned to a specific page, which is a section that is advising the astronomer to seek “inspiration from God.”


In the portrait, the picture on the wall shows the finding of Moses.  After the war ended, The Astronomer was returned to the Rothschild’s.  It was then donated to the famous French museum Louvre in 1982.  It remains one of the museum’s most prized possessions.  Vermeer’s The Geographer had a bit of a different fate.  The Geographer is located at the Städel, which is one of the largest art museums in Germany.

2. Amber Room

Designer: Andreas Schlüter

The Amber room

Andreas Schlüter was German baroque sculptor and architect that lived at the end of the 17th century.  Along with Gottfried Wolfram, who was a Danish amber craftsman, Schlüter was the one that designed the Amber Room.  Construction of the Amber Room began in 1701 and the room was installed at Charlottenburg Palace, home of Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia.  As the name implies, the Amber Room was sculpted out of amber, which is a gemstone made from fossilized tree resin.  The room also contained many jewels, paintings, and gold.  In 1716, the Amber Room was given to Peter the Great to celebrate peace between Russia and Prussia, and an alliance against Sweden.  In 1755, Tsarina Elizabeth of Russia had the room transferred to the Catherine Palace, where Frederick II the Great had more amber sent for reconstructions.  Many renovations took place on the Amber Room throughout the 18th century, ultimately measuring 55 square meters and containing over six tones of amber.

During World War II, Hitler was very familiar with the Amber Room and felt that it should be in German possession.  The Nazi army reached the Amber Room after taking control of the city of Leningrad.  Hitler sent a group of men to dismantle the priceless piece of art.  The Soviet army was unable to properly hide the Amber Room because it was crumbling as they tried to dismantle it.  The Nazi army put the Amber Room in 27 separate crates and sent it to Königsberg in East Prussia.  On January 21, 1945 Hitler ordered the relocation of many pieces of art.  German leader Erich Koch was in charge of the Amber Room and may have decided to move it out of the city.  Later in the war, Königsberg was heavily bombed by the Royal Air Force and the Soviet military.  The Amber Room was never heard from again.


The disappearance of the Amber Room is one of the great mysteries of World War II.  Some reports have claimed that the room survived the war, while others have stated that it was destroyed by bombings or hidden in a lost bunker.  One theory has the Amber Room being loaded onto a German ship or submarine that was sunk by Soviet forces in the Baltic Sea.  Many different groups have been organized over the years in hopes of discovering the lost treasure.  In 2008, German treasure hunters claimed to have found the Amber Room.  The discovery of an estimated two tons of gold and silver was made, but it was hard to gain access to the site because of deadly booby traps.

The finding was never confirmed to be that of the Amber Room and some reports indicated that clues to the whereabouts of the Amber Room were discovered at the site.  Recently, the Amber Room Organization has announced another discovery that was made in the mountains about 30 miles east of Weimar.  A German ARO spokesman named Henry Hatt has stated that he knows where the Amber Room is hidden.  Apparently, he claims that the treasure was transported to the county of Saalfeld and hidden in an old underground mining chamber.  This story has not been confirmed.

1. Madonna of Bruges

Sculptor: Michelangelo

Madonna of Bruges

Michelangelo was an Italian Renaissance painter and sculptor.  He lived from 1475-1564 and is most widely known for his sculptures Pietà and David.  In the early 1500s Michelangelo created the masterpiece Madonna of Bruges.  The sculpture is made of marble and is 128 cm in dimension.  Madonna of Bruges is a depiction of Mary with the baby Jesus.  It is noted for being largely unique in comparison to other statues of Mary and Jesus created during the time of Michelangelo.  Most depictions show a smiling Mary looking down on a baby Jesus.  However, in Madonna of Bruges, Mary doesn’t cling to Jesus or even look at him.  She has a steady gaze down and away from the child.  It seems that Mary knows the fate of her son.

The sculpture is also notable for being the only Michelangelo work to leave Italy during his lifetime.  It was purchased by a family of wealthy cloth merchants from Bruges.  Bruges is a city located in the northwest corner of Belgium.  The Madonna of Bruges has only been removed from Belgium on two separate incidents in history.  The first came in 1794, after French Revolutionaries had conquered the Austrian Netherlands.  At that time, Napoleon ordered the people of Bruges to pack up the Madonn and ship it to France.  The sculpture was returned after the defeat of Napoleon.  The second removal occurred in 1944 when German soldiers were retreating from the area.  The soldiers smuggled the Madonna to Germany in a group of mattresses transported by a Red Cross truck.  Two years later the sculpture was found by Allied forces and returned to Bruges.


The Madonna of Bruges is located at the Church of Our Lady in Bruges, Belgium.  It has been kept at the Church of Our Lady since 1514 and this is where the sculpture belongs and will hopefully stay forever.  It is a cherished piece of art and is kept behind a piece of bulletproof glass.  Visitors are also required to stay 15 feet away from the sculpture.  These measures were taken after the 1972 attack on Michelangelo’s Pietà.  In 1972, a mentally disturbed geologist named Laszlo Toth attacked the sculpture, which is located at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.  Toth took a geologists hammer and bashed the Pietà while screaming “I am Jesus Christ.”  It suffered significant damage and many pieces of marble were broken from the statue.  To make things worse, people stole these pieces, which included the nose of Mary.

Paraphilia Magazine


By Tom Garretson 

On July 16, 1937, the German city of Munich gathered its citizens for a celebratory public festival of officially mandated, state-approved culture. Meticulously staged by the National Socialists (hereafter referred to simply as “Nazis”), the city’s Prinzregentenstrasse had been aligned with 160, forty-foot high pylons topped with the sinister emblems of eagles and swastikas, in addition to the 243 Nazi flags that decorated it from the railroad station to the center of the city. A tightly choreographed parade spectacle rolled out in a procession of Teutonic knights on horseback brandishing Nazi flags. Gothic-stylized maidens draped in white marched nobly, flanked by somber men in black medieval monk’s robes.  Gurneys rested upon the shoulders of silver-clad knights in armor, who displayed monumental, squared pedestals symbolizing the superiority of the new Nazi-styled architecture. Other floats with assorted themes passed on by, each with romanticized visions of Germanic culture and art. It was pompous and bombastic, if not overtly kitsch.

A giant golden eagle, the symbol of the Reich, was posed fifty-feet high, drawn by rows of horses draped in regal blue. It seemed ready to alight at any moment, held back only by the immense solidity its shape conveyed. Rows of flower maidens in peasant costume, signifying youth and fertility, graced the approving crowds kept securely at a distance by the rows of ominous SS officers. This was the celebration of the Zweitausend Jahre Deutsche Kultur (Two Thousand Years of German Culture), a festival pageant for the opening day of the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German Art Exhibition). In reality the crowds were to bear witness to a grand failure, however unapparent it might seem. The celebration was to be temporary, an ostensible victory in this grand masquerade triumphing Nazi culture.

Perhaps never before or since (even in the light of Stalinist Russia or Mao’s China), had art ever been so clearly used as a tool for controlling public thought. In the Great German Art Exhibition Reich chancellor Adolf Hitler and his Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels sought to collectively use art as a vehicle for public propaganda. The artistic merit of individual works became secondary to their collective use in promoting Third Reich ideology. German art existed as a didactic instrument promoting a state-created morality and served as instruction for its citizens. Any art critical of society or that asked inconvenient questions would be abolished, as similarly any art not falling into the Nazis’ rather vague definitions on what art should be. Good German art, according to the Nazis, must be based on traditional values, and reflect the petit bourgeois ideals of the Fascist state. As a failed artist, a mediocre watercolorist who was twice rejected from the Academy in Vienna, it almost seemed as if Adolf Hitler was enacting a personal revenge upon all of the arts, with the sole criteria for quality being his own personal and rather limited, conservative taste.

Figure 1: Hause der Deutschen Kunst (House of German Art). Architect: Paul Ludwig Troost.

Already upon taking power in 1933, Hitler authorized the directives leading to the creation of a grand museum for German art in Munich. He commissioned his favorite architect, Paul Ludwig Troost to design and build the House of German Art [fig. 1], replacing the Glaspalast (a museum containing both romantic and modernist art works) that had previously burnt down in 1931. The heavy, dominating stone structure was derivative of the Greek Classical style and the propaganda tactics of ancient Roman Augustus, with rows of columns on its façade, typical in the style of Third Reich architecture. On October 15, the day of the groundbreaking ceremony, Hitler struck at the corner stone and broke the hammer. Conveniently censored from newsreel footage of the time, it certainly did not provide an auspicious portent for neither the Nazi policies on art nor for the longevity of its artists or its works.

The Great German Art Exhibition opened in the new House of German Art with a fanfare of ceremonial speeches on July 16,1937, and closed its doors to the public only three days later on the 18th. Hitler had come, as he stated in his inaugural speech, “to clean house”, leaving little doubt where Nazi policies on the future of art and culture laid. He had previously stated in his 1934 closing speech at the Nuremburg rally, the importance of the “tradition-minded” party members merging with the army and the “German Man”, carrying on their shoulders the “German State, the German Reich”. Here now at last could he display how art would comply in achieving this very objective. In his speech for the opening, he stated that art was to be nationalized, maintain its identity with the inherent culture, and not be “internationalized” as it had become. All movements or new ideas in art were, to Hitler, laughable and nothing but popular fashions produced by delusional artists.

Figure 2:  Gallery in the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German Art Exhibition), Hause der Deutschen Kunst, Munich, 1937.

Figure 2: Gallery in the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German Art Exhibition), Hause der Deutschen Kunst, Munich, 1937.

A new concept of art was needed, a true “German Art”, which should finally reflect the “eternal value of the people”. He did not, however, ever clearly define indeed what those values were. He negated all sense of development and change within art creativity, stating that German art should remain constant and immediately recognizable as such. No development of style or visual design, composition or technique would be allowed or should be allowed, even over centuries. Art that was seen as belonging to a period of history should be seen as a lesser form of art, because true art, according to Hitler, maintains its identity in the people and crosses across the centuries. There should be no variation of subjects, no changes in themes. “For the artist does not create for the artist,” Hitler stated, “but like everyone else he creates for the people.” Individual expression and creativity was not of interest, and only art that had immediate appeal to the vast majority of the population would be considered to have any value. Above all, finally, art must serve the objectives of the Reich.

After the inaugural speech, Hitler and assorted dignitaries were led inside the House of German Art, through grand rooms presenting the approved themes of the “new” Germanic art. Paintings were distanced far enough from each other to give each work a dignified presence, interspersed in places with sculptures or busts resting on podiums, with room enough so that the viewer could leisurely stroll from one work to another. The rooms were brightly lit, white and clean, enhanced with solid marble doorways. The main “atrium” exhibition gallery [fig. 2] featured a glass roof to convey a sense of openness and healthy, fresh air. Everything was linear with right angles, keeping in line with the style of architecture that Hitler so admired. The public could feel they were indeed in a temple of art. It was to be the model for which all museums would be based on in the Third Reich.

Figure 3: Werner Peiner. Autumn in the Eifel. Date unknown. Oil on canvas.

It was believed that 25,000 works had been submitted to the exhibition’s curators for consideration. However, the actual number had been closer to 16,000. Any lie or exaggeration that might display the Third Reich in a positive light was always utilized. Curated by the president of the Reich Culture Chamber, Adolf Ziegler (also a painter), the sculptors Arno Breker and Josef Wackerie presided over the selection of sculpture. The sole criterion was no stricter than the taste of the Führer himself, and Hitler would personally reject 80 paintings as “unfinished” or too experimental before the final selection was approved.

Progressing through the rooms of this “temple”, one would become aware that the exhibition was presented thematically. In one room, paintings of heroic landscapes that dominated the exhibition reflected the Nazis’ “Blood and Soil” philosophy, recalling a simpler time when man tilled the soil and understood his place in the world. Life in the country was idealistically depicted as it might have been a hundred years ago, without the clutter of modern machinery or the instruments of modern farming [fig. 3].

Figure 4: Helmut Schaarschmidt. Earth Work. Date unknown. Oil on canvas.

It was all derivative of quaint genre paintings of the previous century, and indeed also included works from that period. Heroic beasts in the form of cows, bulls and horses prevailed, as stoic symbols of Nazi dedication and persistence. Peasant farmers, men and women, were shown contentedly plowing fields or in strenuous labor, yet were always presented as determined and happy.

There must never be any doubt as to the joys of hard labor in serving the state. Painters such as Helmut Schaarschmidt excelled at this sort of painting, as seen in his Earth Work [fig. 4] or in Oskar Martin-Amorbach’s The Sower [fig. 5]. These were imaginary landscapes. No matter that they did not actually exist.  German citizens were expected to aspire to their example.

Figure 5: Oskar Martin-Amorbach, The Sower, 1937. Oil on canvas.

Paintings that did not break with tradition were extolled, especially if they promoted a sense of German identity. Often, by simply adding the word “German” to the title of an older painting could an artist present it as faithful to the Nazi doctrine.

Thus titles such as Day in the Mountains became A Day of Peasant Glory in the Germanic Landscape in order to gain advantage in the selection process for their works. Landscape painters such as Martin-Amorbach and Thomas Baumgartner, today largely forgotten by history, were more than willing to allow their works to serve as propaganda. Most of the paintings were depictions of rustic scenes, quaint, trite, and simply a continuation of the genre painting of the previous century.

Family life also was similarly portrayed, in moralistic tales conveying the benefits of many offspring in a home life where every citizen knew their place and their function – to serve the state. The German woman featured in portraits or landscapes was depicted as icons of motherhood or as retired matrons having done their noble duty of raising children.

Figure 6: Fritz Mackensen, Der Saeugling (The Baby), 1892. Oil on canvas.

Figure 6: Fritz Mackensen, Der Saeugling (The Baby), 1892. Oil on canvas.

Fritz Mackensen’s The Baby [fig. 6] aptly shows her breastfeeding an infant (again looking to the past in this painting from 1892 to represent the future). Woman’s duty was to produce cannon fodder for the coming wars.

Female nudity could also be depicted, often in quasi-pornographic representations as erotic objects, such as in Ernst Liebermann’s By the Water [fig. 7]. Such paintings always served as an object for the male gaze, never providing a sense of individuality or female sexuality, but presented them only as passive, fertile figures.

Figure 7: Ernst Liebermann, By the Water. Date unknown. Oil on canvas.

Figure 7: Ernst Liebermann, By the Water. Date unknown. Oil on canvas.

All figurative works of sculpture or painting expressed the Nazi ideal of racial beauty. The Aryan man or woman possessed classically inspired attributes [fig. 8]. Nothing remotely conveying Semitic or African-American racial traits would ever have been allowed to soil the Nazi canvas or disfigure a stone. The Aryan men in the works must be shown heroically, either in battle scenes or as pillars of strength, optimistic and glorified.

Figure 8: Albert Janesch. Water Sports. 1936. Oil on canvas.

Figure 8: Albert Janesch. Water Sports. 1936. Oil on canvas.

Whether leading a stubborn bull on the farm or raising the Nazi flag with his comrades, the image of the Aryan Nazi man was shown as willing to sacrifice himself for the common good, through the sweat and toil of labor or through the ultimate sacrifice in war [fig. 9].

Sculpture always conveyed a sense of power, in a stylized perversion of the classical Greek heroic nude, often carrying a sword or having an eagle by the male’s side, such as in Arno Breker’s gaudy sculpture Bereitschaft (Readiness)[fig. 10]. Josef Thorak’s Kameradschaft (Comradeship) [fig. 11] also reveals such an aggrandized form. Two exaggeratedly muscular men are shown nude, holding hands, with heads lifted upwards to the sky. Its homoerotic element obviously remained unnoticed by the selection committee.

Figure 9: Hermann Otto Hoyer, SA Man Rescuing Wounded Comrade in the Street. 1933. Oil on canvas.

Figure 9: Hermann Otto Hoyer, SA Man Rescuing Wounded Comrade in the Street. 1933. Oil on canvas.

The viewers of the exhibition for the most part must have experienced a sense of blandness and fatigue at viewing the works. One observer of the exhibition commented that the many paintings were dull and “looked like photographs,” and how the depictions of rural life had nothing to do with reality. Most of the art left little impression save for the technical or realistic quality involved. The paintings were based on formulaic ideals, suitable to Fascist ideology, with a clear link to an imaginary past.

For three days the public attended an exhibition that sought to educate them (and artists) on what would be the new cultural policies on painting and sculpture. It left no room for anything but the most obvious depictions of National Socialist ideology. Modernism was swept aside and it seemed as if painting and sculpture was placed back a century, modified by a romanticized ideal of a utopian society free from any conflict, racial infection, or “degenerate” Jewish or foreign art. Of the little over 600 works on display, it was little wonder that hardly any of these sold. The few that did went to Nazi Party members or to only a handful of museums.

Figure 10: Arno Breker, Bereitschaft (Readiness). 1937. Bronze.

Figure 10: Arno Breker, Bereitschaft (Readiness). 1937. Bronze.

The Great German Art Exhibition was the culmination of the Nazis’ drive to rid the Third Reich of any art that they considered “degenerate”, namely art that didn’t reflect the Nazi ideals of society. However, the idea that art could be defined as degenerate was not an entirely new thought. It’s origins stemmed back to the previous century in German culture. The book Entartung (Degeneration) published in 1892 by the pseudo-scientist Max Nordau (coincidentally a Jew himself) had used the term “degenerate” in describing certain forms of art for the first time. In it he decried Symbolism, the Pre-Raphaelites, the writings of Henrik Ibsen and many others, in an attempt to “prove the superiority of traditional German culture.” And in 1911, the German artist Carl Vinnen attacked the purchases of French Impressionsists in what he claimed was inferior works of art in his Ein Protest deutscher Künstler (A Protest by German Artists).

Figure 11: Josef Thorak, Kameradschaft (Comradeship), 1937. Bronze.  Location unknown, exhibited in the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstelung.

Figure 11: Josef Thorak, Kameradschaft (Comradeship), 1937. Bronze. Location unknown, exhibited in the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstelung.

Even in the more relaxed censorship of the Weimar republic, Georg Grosz suffered legal action by the First District Court of Berlin in 1922 for his series of critical drawings and watercolors Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), on obscenity charges. He and his publishers were fined and most of the plates for the series confiscated, and they again lost in their appeal in 1924. That same year Otto Dix’s painting Schützengraben (Trench, 1923) was exhibited at the Berlin Academy and its grotesque imagery received an onslaught of protest and angry criticism because of its anti-war message (strangely enough his depictions of sexual murder were ignored). All of this served and was used by the Nazis to strengthen the National Socialist argument that art had become immoral, indecent, and most of all, “degenerate.”

Also in the 1920’s, the Deutsche Kunstgesellschaft (German Art Association) attacked the works of Grosz and Beckmann, claiming that modern art had been run rampant with “Kulturbolschewismus” (art-Bolshevism), and that the association’s mission was to promote an “art that was pure German, with the German soul reflecting art.” And in 1927 the anti-Semite Alfred Rosenberg, instigator of many of the party’s cultural policies, established the Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur (known later as the Combat League for German Culture) in Munich. As the Nazis rose in power, so did Rosenberg’s denouncing of modernism, taking full form in his 1930 book Der Mythus des 20. Jarhhunderts (The Myth of the Twentieth Century). The book was an attempt to give validity to the Nazis’ attack on Expressionism and all modernist forms of art. In addition, Rosenberg’s office was also responsible for many art exhibitions and was directly under the authority of Goebbel’s Ministry of Propaganda, a situation that often led to conflict between the two party members. It seemed that no one could really agree on how to treat modernist art, what the new Nazi art should encompass, or worse, who would have the right to veto or approve exhibitions.

In the early years of the anti-modernist crusade this confusion was apparent. Strangely enough, shortly before the Nazi takeover of power Hermann Göring had commissioned Otto Dix, later viciously singled out as a “degenerate” artist, to paint portraits of his children. Emile Nolde at first was embraced by the Nazis (he even became a member of the Nazi party) and then rejected as an outcast because Hitler found his art distasteful. Franz Radziwill, a realist painter who joined the Nazi party in 1933, was himself banned only two years later. And Goebbels had owned a sculpture by Ernst Barlach, who it seemed the Nazis could never make up their minds about, until Hitler expressed his hatred of Barlach’s work and made him persona non grata in the Nazi art world. Barlach had gone from representing Germany in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair to having his works removed from churches and museums, and his drawings and books banned by 1936.

Also, on March 28, 1934 an exhibition of Italian avant-garde art opened in Berlin, entitled Aeropittura. The Italian Futurists featured works themed around airplanes in a modernist style, which provoked the opportunistic Nazi art critic Robert Scholz to write “Almost as in the hey-day of Marxism…decadent art is everywhere on the rise.” This is made all the more bizarre when one realizes that the Expressionist poet Gottfried Benn gave the opening exhibition speech and that Goebbels was on the honorary committee. Obviously, the regulations and decrees on art were not clearly understood or defined. The criteria for filtering out modernist art seemed to lay solely in the mind of Der Führer.

Apart from the attempts to regulate and control the exhibition of art, art criticism was also under attack. Goebbels issued a decree on November 27,1936 effectively banning all art criticism, a sentiment reiterated again in Hitler’s speech at the opening of the Great German Art Exhibition the following year: “… all these dumb, mendacious excuses, this claptrap or jabbering will no longer be accepted as excuses or even recommendations for worthless, integrally unskilled products.” The Nazis fully understood that art criticism would stand in the way of using Fascist art to sway the populace so they simply banned all criticism in the media.

In the pivotal year of 1933, the onslaught against modernist art was finally given free reign. After Hitler was appointed chancellor on January 30, he immediately set into action the chain of events to control art as an instrument of National Socialist dogma. On March 13 Joseph Goebbels was named Reich Minister for National Enlightenment and Propaganda, giving him the power to exercise a centralized state supervision of culture as well as the purging of “non-Aryans” (Jews) and anyone not faithful to Nazi dogma. In Decrees XXX to XXXIII, Goebbels was given unprecedented centralized power held previously by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, Posts and Communications. This condensed power over a vast area of society to one man, making Goebbels answerable only to Hitler. Music, the press, the stage, film, literature, art and every other conceivable cultural activity now became under his control.

The purge of art began. Previously in 1929, the Nazi Minister of the Interior for the state of Thuringia, Wilhelm Frick, had dismissed professors, museum directors, and most notably Walter Gropius and the entire faculty of the Bauhaus in Weimar, replacing him with the architect and racial theorist Paul Schultze-Naumburg.Schultze-Naumburg immediately ordered the destruction of Oskar Schlemmer’s murals in the Bauhaus school, as well as the removal of works by Kandinsky, Klee and Barlach from the Schlossmuseum in Weimar. His book Kunst und Rasse (Art and Race) described modern art as “entarte” (degenerate), further promoting Nazi cultural policies. When the Nazis took control in 1933, additional museum directors were removed from their positions across all of Germany and were replaced with party members. Artists such as Gropius, Kandinsky, and Klee fled Germany, and Beckmann, Dix, Hofer, Kollwtiz and many other artists were fired from their teaching positions. Any artist who did not hold a membership in the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture), formed in September, was effectively banned from practicing.

Figure 12:  Exhibitions viewers line up at the entrance of the Entartete kunst exhibition, 1937.

Figure 12: Exhibitions viewers line up at the entrance of the Entartete kunst exhibition, 1937.

The first of many smaller exhibitions decrying “degenerate” art and artists appeared already in April 1933 only one month after Goebbels took office.  Schandausstellungen exhibitions (exhibitions of shame) and Schreckenskammern der Kunst (chambers of horror of art) held in Mannheim and Dresden derided all of modern art. Other cities soon began following their example in sensationalistic, negative displays. These would be the forerunners for the grand exhibition of Entartete kunst (Degenerate art) of 1937 in Munich.

On June 30, 1937, Goebbels bestowed Adolf Ziegler as head of the Reichskammer der Bildenen Künst (Reich Chamber of Visual Art), to head a commission authorized to confiscate art from museums or collections that could be designated as subversive, modernist, or degenerate in any form. In the 1940 film Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew), we are provided with a glimpse of the skewed logic used to justify this seizure of art:

“For the purity and neatness of the German concept of art the Jew, without roots of his own, has no feeling. What he calls art must gratify his deteriorating nerves. The stench of disease must pervade it. It [is] unnatural, grotesque, perverse, or pathological. These feverish fantasies of hopelessly sick minds were once extolled by Jewish art critics of German public life as high artistic expressions. Today it seems incredible that such pictures were once bought by nearly all our galleries. The Jewish art dealers and art critics praise them as the only real modern art. German public life was ‘niggerized’ and bastardized. Painting, architecture, literature and music suffered as well.”

Figure 13: Cramped exhibition space in the Entartete kunst exhibition.

Figure 13: Cramped exhibition space in the Entartete kunst exhibition.

It is estimated that at least 16,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and other works were confiscated, with some estimates as high as 20,000, from private owners and museums. Jewish households, businesses, institutions, and museums, all were raided as the Nazis confiscated works of art, modernist or otherwise. 730 of these artworks by 112 artists found their way into the Entartete kunst exhibition that poignantly served to juxtapose the Great German Art Exhibition.

Opening on July 19 in Munich, the Entartete kunst exhibition was to be the trophy room of the wild safari hunt on modernist art by the Nazis [fig. 12]. Located in the former local of the Institute of Archeology, across the park from the House of German Art, the building was unsuitable to exhibit artworks but intentionally chosen with that in mind. Chaotically hung paintings, some taken from their frames, hung cramped next to one each other on walls with painted slogans such as “Crazy at any price!” or “Even museum bigwigs called this ‘art of the German people’”, deriding the museum curators who had purchased them. The ground floor and seven rooms were covered in white-boarded walls and stuffed with works presented, as in the Great German Art Exhibition, thematically. While the latter exhibition displayed works in a pleasing manner with flat, open surfaces surrounding the works, the Entartete kunst exhibition overwhelmed the visitor with a barrage of images and negative commentary, thrown tightly together in a stifling and extremely confined space [fig. 13].

Figure 14: Ludwig Gies, Kruzifixus (Crucified Christ), c.1921; wood; formerly in Lübeck Cathedral, probably destroyed.  Shown here in the hallway entrance landing in Room 1 of the Entartete kunst exhibition.

Figure 14: Ludwig Gies, Kruzifixus (Crucified Christ), c.1921; wood; formerly in Lübeck Cathedral, probably destroyed. Shown here in the hallway entrance landing in Room 1 of the Entartete kunst exhibition.

In the hallway above the stairs that led to the upper floor, visitors were met by Ludwig Gies’ Kruzifixus (Crucified Christ, 1921) [fig. 14], a wooden, carved sculpture showing the contorted figure of an abstract Christ with an obtruding ribcage, heralded by the text, “This horror hung as a war memorial in the cathedral of Lübeck.” It served as the introduction for Room 1 of the exhibition, devoted to religious art, on which the wall held the inscription, “Insolent mockery of the Divine under Centrist rule.” Religious works by Nolde, Beckmann, Rauh and others hung here. By contrast, there were no religious works shown at the Great German Art Exhibition. These were instead replaced naturally by images of the Führer [fig. 15].

Figure 15: Hubert Lanzinger, Der Bannerträger (The Flag Bearer), c. 1935. Oil on canvas.  Note the slashed face, apparently pierced by a U.S. soldier with a bayonet.

Figure 15: Hubert Lanzinger, Der Bannerträger (The Flag Bearer), c. 1935. Oil on canvas. Note the slashed face, apparently pierced by a U.S. soldier with a bayonet.

Room 2 was devoted to Jewish artists, and included Marc Chagall, Lasar Segal, Jankel Adler and others. Texts by Hitler and Rosenberg were hung on the wall, decrying “Jews and Marxists…the cultural Bolsheviks.” The banner “Revelation of the Jewish racial soul” introduced the room, and under each painting the name of the artist was written with the word “Jew”, and the artist’s position such as teacher or architect, in indignation that a Jewish artist could hold a position in German society. Room 3 held nude expressionist portraits and sculptures of women, with the slogan “An insult to German womanhood” and “The ideal – cretin and whore” painted above them. Quotes by artists, taken entirely out of context, were used to demonstrate their “criminal” nature, such as Georg Grosz’s “How does the artist rise in the bourgeoisie? By cheating.”

Figure 16: Adolf Hitler visiting the “Dada Wall” in the Entartete kunst exhibition.  Note that the paintings have been titled.

Figure 16: Adolf Hitler visiting the “Dada Wall” in the Entartete kunst exhibition. Note that the paintings have been titled.

A quote from Hitler’s speech at the Nuremburg rally, discrediting Dadaists, Cubists, Futurists and their like, was hung opposite the “Dada Wall” [fig. 16 & 17], mocking the movement by hanging paintings and works in a crooked manner (later straightened after Hitler’s visit during the opening of the exhibit). Remarkably, the entire exhibition had borrowed heavily from the First International Dada Fair exhibition of 1920 in its use of aggressive and provocative slogans scrawled on the walls and tilted presentations of works. Again, the irony of this seems to have passed the Nazis by.

Figure 17: The “Dada Wall” without the public, now with paintings positioned vertically.

Figure 17: The “Dada Wall” without the public, now with paintings positioned vertically.

All of the exhibition’s rooms were set up to be defamatory, each one showing works with derisive comments, leaving no room for misinterpretation. The ground floor hallway focused on portraits by Grosz, Dix, Kokoschka, Kandinsky, Schwitters and others, acknowledging Hans Prinzhorn’s 1922 book Bildnerei der Geistekranken (Image-making by the Mentally Ill). That book had made comparisons of faces of the mentally ill and retarded to portraits of Expressionist art [fig. 18], and the Nazis used photographs from it as an obvious reference to their genetic “degeneracy”. Prices were hung by each painting, at their exorbitant Weimar-era inflation prices and not their Nazi era equivalent, so as to further heighten the sense of outrage.  Confiscated books containing art prints were on display, and one ground floor hallway was devoted predominantly to the exhibition of woodcut prints and etchings [fig 19].

Any of the “isms” such as Dadaism, Surrealism, Impressionism, Expressionism or anything considered new or experimental, were all conveniently placed under the umbrella of “modernism”, including also New Objectivism and abstract art. All works shown in the exhibit were the prime examples of Hitler’s Säuberrungskrieg (cleansing war) against such art, described in his appropriated terminology simply as “degenerate” art.

Figure 18: Juxtaposition of works of “degenerate art by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Amedeo Modigliani and photographs of facial deformities, from Paul Schultze-Naumburg, Kunst and Rasse, 1928.

Figure 18: Juxtaposition of works of “degenerate art by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Amedeo Modigliani and photographs of facial deformities, from Paul Schultze-Naumburg, Kunst and Rasse, 1928.

The Entartete kunst exhibition closed its doors on November 30, four and a half months after its opening. Interest in the exhibition far surpassed the Exhibition of German Art, which received an estimated 400,000 to 800,000 visitors compared to Entartete kunst’s 2,009,899 participant viewers. As no art criticism existed, we cannot fairly judge German society’s true response to the works, but judging by the Entartete kunst’s continuing onwards as a traveling exhibition to 11 other cities (and drawing over 3,000,000 visitors), one is inclined to believe that the “degenerate” art won the round.

No doubt the sensationalist component portrayed by the organizers and the Nazis drew the curious. But the truth is that the art offered by the Nazis simply could not match the vibrancy of creative vision that the modernist artists offered.  Modernist art was forward looking, evolving and vibrant. Nazi art by contrast looked backwards, lacked creative insight, and asked no engaging questions of its viewers. It was stagnant, its themes bland and repetitive. In contrast, modernist art was exciting, challenging, and offered no easy, passive participation in the reading of its works. The sentimentality of Nazi art could not match the aggressiveness of the modernists. As the attendance figures reveal, interest was far higher in the “degenerate” art than in the state-dictated art of the Nazis.

Figure 19: Ground floor hallway, exhibiting prints and etchings by Expressionist artists in the Entartete kunst exhibition.

Figure 19: Ground floor hallway, exhibiting prints and etchings by Expressionist artists in the Entartete kunst exhibition.

Hitler and the Nazi artists sought to portray a mirror of their world, but theirs was a world built upon shaky ground. It was a world of illusion and imaginary social fantasies borne by the megalomaniac obsessions of that failed artist, who longed for a golden age that in reality never actually occurred. Utopias are by their very nature non-attainable, especially if they are represented in art works that are complicit to myths and lies. It is because of this that today the art of the Nazis is predominantly considered to be “bad art.” Its substance simply doesn’t hold to the light of day, no matter how good the technique is.

The destruction of “degenerate” works of art has been well documented and written about. Many were destroyed and the Nazis sold some off for much needed currency. Others works wound up hoarded in underground mines, hidden until being discovered by American soldiers. Not all of the works stolen have been found, but yearly we hear of found works being returned to their original owner’s families after lengthy legal battles. The works by Nazi artists for the most part remain hidden away in government storage units or relegated to the back rooms of museums, hardly if ever exhibited. The names of most of the artists closely associated with the Nazis remain ignored by the curators of museums, considered taboo or too unimportant to exhibit, and are only of interest to the art historian.

Today one needs simply to visit a German museum to see how the art of the Nazis has ultimately failed to make its mark or last as a valued contribution to its artistic heritage. Avant-garde artists permeate Berlin’s galleries and the vibrant atmosphere of creative impulses that the Nazis attempted to obliterate, now flourish. Hitler’s dream temple still exists, after modifying its name to simply Haus der Kunst. Inside, the works shown there now are contemporary and installation art, the antithesis of what Nazi art was. And magically enough, the remnants of certain modernist works buried by the Nazis have literally started ascending up from the ground. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, 11 sculptures once designated as “degenerate art” recently were discovered in the ruins of a cellar in Berlin, dug out by archeologists and are now placed in the Neues Museum. All were part of the Entartete kunst travelling exhibition. It seems modernism and “degenerate art” has triumphed after all.

Tom Garretson

Edited & Designed By Díre McCain    © 2013 PARAPHILIA MAGAZINE

28 March 2011

An Ordinary Berliner on the Nazi Exhibition of “Degenerate Art”

In The Turbulent World of Franz Göll, historian Peter Fritzsche sifts through the lifetime of diaries kept by an ordinary twentieth century Berliner. A few weeks back, Fritzsche offered excerpts from the diaries to present the evolution of Göll’s attitude towards Germany’s Jews. Below, he gives us Göll’s thoughts on his 1938 visit to the infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition staged by the Nazis as an attack on modernism.


Degenerate_Art Hitler’s Third Reich wove a series of extraordinary spectacles through the fabric of daily life. The Nuremberg Rallies, May Day rallies, and Führer birthday celebrations all attempted to testify to the unity and enthusiasm of the German population. Huge propaganda exhibitions also aimed to show Germans new, more racially sound ways of looking at the world. One of these was the exhibit on “Degenerate Art,” which opened in Munich in summer 1937 (the cover of the exhibit program is pictured at right). The exhibit was designed as a horror show of modern art, which the Nazis believed was unhealthy because non-representational, abstract, and cosmopolitan. The pictures, including paintings by Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Georg Grosz, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee, were hung to produce a chaotic, dizzying effect. Since the exhibit was closed to children, it had a built-in shock appeal, and most of the three million Germans who visited probably walked through the exhibit room snickering their outrage and incomprehension. But aside from the propaganda barrages produced by the exhibit itself, historians do not really know how individual Germans reacted. However, the diarist Franz Göll left behind a revealing and lengthy response upon visiting the exhibit when it arrived in Berlin.

On the eve of Germany’s march into Austria in March 1938, Franz Göll took a look to see what all the fuss was about. His response:

“Supported by the Propaganda Ministry and organized by the Nazi Party, the exhibit is designed to arouse the regime’s abhorrence of the mentality of this sort of art among the broad masses and to justify, substantiate, and strengthen the required opposition . . . The exhibit displays . . . a picture, ‘The War.’ This picture is not pretty; it is horror-inducing, shattering. But the repulsion you feel is not because of the representation, but the subject of representation, war with its ruination and destruction of property, blood, and soul. It presents a cross-section of the war, not as the general staff would see it, for whom the individual is merely materiél to be thrown into battle, but as the front soldier experiences it.” (12 March 1938)

In front of Otto Dix’s masterpiece, Franz came to the extraordinary conclusion:

“The picture is not a bloody-minded depiction of the degenerate, war is.”

He continued on through the exhibit:

“Moreover, there is another picture to be seen, entitled ‘War Cripple.’ Today one sees this picture as mocking the war wounded. But I actually read it as depicting the great and quiet spiritual tragedy in the life of a severely wounded war veteran. A picture of great sadness that really strikes a chord. A war invalid who wants to tenderly draw his wife to him with his prosthetic arms. He awkwardly places his artificial arm outfitted with a claw hook around his wife. From their expressions, it is obvious that this caress is not regarded as a moment of bliss, but as a painful disappointment over a happiness that is gone forever.”

Historians have almost no responses of ordinary Germans to the exhibit. However, Franz Göll’s diary provides one extraordinary example. It shows that Germans by no means all believed the propaganda they were fed and could use the propaganda to come to their own, even diametrically opposed opinions. Göll sympathized with the weak and vulnerable, the frightened soldier and the wounded veteran, and he recalled Dix’s vision when he recorded the news of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, a war that Hitler believed would leave only the “Annihilated” and the “Survivors.”


The Exhibition Of Degenerate Art

For it is an affair of the State ….. to prevent a Folk from being driven into the arms of spiritual lunacy ….. for on the day that this kind of art were actually to correspond to the general conception, one of the most severe changes of mankind would have begun; the backward development of the human brain. — Adolf Hitler, My Struggle.

It is not the function of art to wallow in dirt for dirt’s sake, never its task to paint the state of decomposition, to draw cretins as the symbol of motherhood, to picture hunchbacked idiots as representatives of manly strength, Hitler had declared at the Party Rally in Nürnberg in 1935.

In July, 1937 Hitler and Göbbels decided to clear museums of all remaining modern works and to mount an exhibition of modern works as an example of the most horrific art ever created. The custodians of all government and private museums and art collections are busy removing the most hideous creations of a degenerate humanity and of a pathological generation of so called artists, the magazine Der SA-Mann reported triumphantly in the issue of September 18th, 1937.

And the director of the German Art Association had this to say to the cultural theorist Alfred Rosenberg: Throw this decaying foulness out of the art of the awakening Germany! Out also all those who still allow and foster cultural Bolshevism! ….. The undersigned knows that The Leader and you, Herr Reich Leader, cannot do everything alone ….. Therefore we make ourselves available to fight unreservedly, with all our strength and ability, for a German worldview, for the fertility of German life, and through this for German art. We are at your command. Heil Hitler!

Degenerate Art, München, 1937. Cover of the exhibition guide with the sculpture The New Man by the idiot Otto Freundlich
A Commission under the painter Adolf Ziegler, President Of The Reich Culture Chamber, aided by some art historians, including the Director Of The Folkwang Museum in Essen, Klaus Graf von Baudissin, seized over 5,000 works from private and public collections. Among the works were:

  • 1,052 by Emil Nolde,
  • 759 by Erich Heckel,
  • 639 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and
  • 508 by Max Beckmann.
  •                 They also took works by:
    • Alexander Archipenko,
    • Georges Braque,
    • Marc Chagall,
    • Giorgio de Chirico,
    • Robert Delaunay,
    • André Derain,
    • Theo van Dösburg,
    • James Ensor,
    • Paul Gauguin,
    • Vincent van Gogh,
    • Albert Gleizes,
    • Alexei Jawlensky,
    • Wassily Kandinsky,
    • Fernand Léger,
    • El Lissitzky,
    • Franz Masereel,
    • Henri Matisse,
    • László Moholy-Nagy,
    • Piet Mondrian,
    • Edvard Munch,
    • Pablo Picasso,
    • Georges Rouault,
    • and Maurice Vlaminck.

    Hitler at an early Degenerate Art exhibition, Dresden, 1935. Paintings: Erich Heckel: Seated Man; Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Five Women; Hans Grundig: Boy With Broken Arm; Johannes Tietz: Double Image — As in all things, the Folk trust the judgment of one man, our Leader. He knows which way German art must go in order to fulfil its task as a projection of the German character. I open the exhibition of Degenerate Art. — Adolf Ziegler
    Right from the start the National Socialists began to stage propaganda exhibitions of the most blatant examples of bad modern art. The League For The Defence Of German Culture had organised a show in Karlsruhe in 1933 which showed official art in Germany from 1918 to 1933. Official in these terms were the spiritually worthless works by Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter as well as paintings by Max Slevogt, Lovis Corinth, and Munch. Each of the works on show had a price tag to indicate how much the museum had paid for it. The aim was to educate the public by showing them how, in times of stupefying economic hardship, taxpayers’ money was spent. Stuttgart followed with an equally critical show of the works of Marc Chagall, Max Beckmann, and Otto Dix. As soon as the Dresden Museum was cleared of its modern art, the City Hall put on a show of the confiscated works entitled Mirrors Of The Decadence In Art. The Nürnberg and Dessau Museums also opened their own Chambers Of Horrors, displaying modern art. The National Socialist educator Gebele von Waldstein wasted no time. In the spring of 1933 he opened an exhibition of Cultural Bolshevism in the Kunsthalle in Mannheim; the show then travelled to München and Nürnberg. The painter Hans Adolf Bühler, the Director Of The School Of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, quickly followed with an exhibition caricaturing the art sponsored by the previous Government: Official Art From 1918 To 1933. All these defamatory exhibitions were widely publicised and attracted many visitors. In München, The Eternal Jew, an exhibition of Jewish history in theatre, film, painting, and sculpture, attracted 150,000 visitors.

    In 1936, Hitler decided to stage his own show of the hated modern art. An official exhibition of Entartete KunstDegenerate Art opened in München on July 19th, 1937, a day after the opening of the first Great German Art Exhibition, to which it was a useful pendant. With great satisfaction, Göbbels announced:

    How deeply the perverse Jewish spirit has penetrated German cultural life is shown in the frightening and horrifying forms of the Exhibition Of Degenerate Art in München ….. This has nothing at all to do with the suppression of artistic freedom and modem progress. On the contrary, the botched art works which were exhibited there and their creators are of yesterday and before yesterday. They are the senile representatives, no longer to be taken seriously, of a period that we have intellectually and politically overcome and whose monstrous, degenerate creations still haunt the field of the plastic arts in our time. (Göbbels, November 26th, 1937, in Von der Großmacht zur Weltmacht.)

    The exhibition of Degenerate Art was installed in the old gallery in the Hofgarten. In his opening speech Adolf Ziegler announced: Our patience with all those who have not been able to fall in line with National Socialist reconstruction during the last four years is at an end. The German Folk will judge them. We are not scared. The Folk trust, as in all things, the judgment of one man, our Leader. He knows which way German art must go in order to fulfil its task as the expression of German character ….. What you are seeing here are the crippled products of madness, impertinence, and lack of talent ….. I would need several freight trains to clear our galleries of this rubbish. He added proudly, to thundering applause, This will happen soon. (Ziegler, July 19th, 1937, Mitteilungsblatt der Reichskammer der bildenden Künste, August 1st, 1937.)

    The Degenerate Art show in München was the most frank, radical, and brutally instructive of its kind. The pictures were jammed together with descriptive labels which seemed merely insulting until one noticed the garbage which they were labelling. In its arrangement the Directors borrowed from the much despised Dadaists. The way of hanging the pictures, the aggressive slogans resembling graffiti on the walls, the whole idea of wanting to shock had all been done years before by the Dadaists. Hitler and Göbbels came to look at the cream of Cubism, Dadaism, and Expressionism: approximately 650 works by 112 artists, among them Barlach, Beckmann, Corinth, Grosz, Heckel, Kandinsky, Kirchner, Klee, Kokoschka, Nolde, and Pechstein.

    Young people were barred from the show due to the obscenity of the exhibits from which decent German youth had to be protected. The Directors of the show wished that they could place the previous criminal museum directors and idiotic artists next to the works so that the public could spit at them.

    Stupidity Or Impertinence — Or Both — Pushed To The Limit!. Page 32 of the Degenerate Art exhibition guide. Paintings: Max Ernst: La Belle Jardinière; Willi Baumeister: Figure With Pink Stripe III; Johannes Molzahn: Twins
    The apparently chaotic display had order built into it. The exhibits were classified by subject just as in the other official exhibition. Only the themes here were Farmers Seen By Jews, Insult To German Womanhood, Mockery Of God. The spectacular and sensational way in which the art was displayed was aimed at mobilising vigorous popular protest. It was meant to be the last chapter of a barbaric age, while the official show signalled the dawn of a new one. Over two million visitors came. Does this not sufficiently prove the necessity for such an education through the horror chambers of degenerate art? reasonably asked one of the prominent members of the League For The Defence Of German Culture. (Dr. Walter Hansen, Judenkunst in Deutschland, Berlin, 1942, page 197.)

    The press joined in the tirades against the modern artists and announced proudly that the cleansing of the temple of German art was complete. The aim of the show was to kill off modern art, and it succeeded. Göbbels had achieved his aim of making the public the true judge of art:

    Had the representatives of decadence and decline turned their attention to the masses of the Folk, they would have come up against icy contempt and cold mockery. For the Folk have no fear of being scorned as out of step with the times and as reactionary by enraged Jewish literati. Only the wealthy classes have this fear ….. They succumb all too easily to that kind of demiculture which is coupled with intellectual pride and conceited arrogance. These defects are familiar to us under the label snobbism ….. Snobbism is sick and wormeaten ….. We have had the courage to reject the products of its insolent arrogance. Today they are assembled in the Exhibition Of Degenerate Art, and the Folk, by the million, walk by this staggering nonsense, shaking their heads angrily ….. In fact, The Leader has acted in the fulfilment of a national duty when he interfered here and again established order and a sure footing in this chaos.

    Degenerate Music, Düsseldorf, 1938. Cover of the exhibition guide by Hans Severus Ziegler
    There were suggestions that the remaining works be burned, and on March 20th, 1939, 1,004 paintings and 3,825 watercolours, drawings, and graphic works were burned in the courtyard of the fire station in Berlin. The confiscation of the moderns from the museums also provoked hectic activity among international art dealers. The Berlin art dealer Karl Buchholz offered his services in the cleansing action in order to take over some works. Karl Haberstock, a München art dealer who organised an auction of banned art in Lucerne in 1939, proposed a further cleansing action. Dr. Franz Hofmann of the Degenerate Art Commission proposed to sell these unsaleable works. Göbbels was reluctant, but Hitler, realising that this art could be a source of considerable income, decided to sell it for the good of Germany.

    Installation view of the Degenerate Art exhibition. Paintings: Emil Nolde: The Mulatto; Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Portrait of B. R.; at far right, a portion of Emil Nolde, Man And Woman — The niggerising of music and theatre as well as the niggerising of the visual arts was intended to uproot the racial instinct of the Folk, and to tear down blood barriers. — wall statement
    Soon the London dealer P. D. Colnaghi, trying to outbid the two Jewish dealers from Paris, Wildenstein and Seligmann, offered to take over the entire stock of the Degenerate Art exhibition, referring to the fact that he was the only prominent English art dealer never to have offered degenerate art from any country for sale.

    Ultimately it fell to the Galerie Fischer in Lucerne to organise the sale, in June, 1939.


The New York Times
December 1, 2010
Thomas Peter/Reuters

“Head,” by Otto Freundlich, is one of 11 pieces of art that were initially thought to be of ancient origin.

Close Window

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
December 1, 2010
Neues Museum, Berlin

“Hagar” by Karl Kanppe. From left: the original bronze; the condition when discovered; and as it appears now, cleaned and on display at Berlin’s Neues Museum.

Thomas Peter/Reuters

“A Likeness of the Actress Anni Mewes,” by Edwin Scharff, is among the pieces found this year during excavations in Berlin.

The New York Times
December 1, 2010
John MacDougall/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Marg Moll’s “Dancer,” from around 1930, is one of the found works in the “Degenerate Art” show at the Neues Museum in Berlin.

Hitler’s Speech at the Opening of the House of German Art in Munich (July 18, 1937)On the day before the start of the “Degenerate Art” exhibition, Hitler officially opened the “Great German Art Exhibition,” which was on view in the House of German Art, a new museum designed by architect Paul Ludwig Troost (1873-1934). It was the first of eight annual exhibitions that aimed to define and display “German art.” The exhibited works were chosen in an open competition; artists Adolf Ziegler, Arno Breker, and Karl Albiker, all of whom were loyal to the regime, originally comprised the jury for the 1937 show. A few weeks before the opening, however, Hitler replaced them with his personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann. Approximately 900 works were exhibited. These included nudes, genre scenes, still lifes, idealized landscapes, mythological scenes, images of workers and heroes, and above all portraits of “pure” and “Aryan” people. At the opening, Hitler delivered a programmatic speech on National Socialist cultural policy and its conception of “German art,” making perfectly clear that the Nazi regime would only accommodate art that was suitable for propaganda purposes. Any type of art that did not comply with Nazi ideology would be labeled “degenerate” and banned from museums.
previous document      next document

page 1 of 4
But you understand now that it is not enough merely to provide the House [ . . . ] the exhibit itself must also bring about a turning point. [ . . . ] If I presume to make a judgment, speak my opinion, and act accordingly, I do this not just because of my outlook on German art, but I claim this right because of the contribution I myself have made to the restoration of German art. Because our present state, which I and my comrades in the struggle have created, has alone provided German art with the conditions for a new, vigorous flowering.It was not Bolshevik art collectors or their literary henchmen who laid the foundation for a new art or even secured the continued existence of art in Germany. No, we were the ones who created this state and have since then provided vast sums for the encouragement of art. We have given art great new tasks. [ . . . ] I declare here and now that it is my irrevocable resolve that just as in the sphere of political bewilderment, I am going to make a clean sweep of phrases in the artistic life of Germany. “Works of art” which cannot be comprehended and are validated only through bombastic instructions for use [ . . . ] from now on will no longer be foisted upon the German people!

We are more interested in ability than in so-called intent. An artist who is counting on having his works displayed, in this House or anywhere else in Germany, must possess ability. Intent is something that is self-evident. These windbags have tried to make their works more palatable by representing them as expressions of a new age; but they need to be told that art does not create a new age, that it is the general life of peoples which fashions itself anew and therefore often seeks to express itself anew. [ . . . ] Men of letters are not the creators of new epochs; it is the fighters, those who truly shape and lead peoples, who make history. [ . . . ] Aside from that, it is either impudent effrontery or an inscrutable stupidity to exhibit to our own age works that might have been made ten or twenty thousand years ago by a man of the Stone Age. They talk of primitive art, but they forget that it is not the function of art to retreat backward from the level of development a people has already reached. The function of art can only be to symbolize the vitality of this development.

The new age of today is at work on a new human type. Tremendous efforts are being made in countless spheres of life in order to elevate our people, to make our men, boys, lads,girls, and women more healthy and thereby stronger and more beautiful. From this strength and beauty streams forth a new feeling of life, and a new joy in life. Never before was humanity in its external appearance and perceptions closer to the ancient world than it is today.This type of human, which we saw last year during the Olympic games [ . . . ] exuding proud physical strength — this my good prehistoric art-stutterers — this is the “type” of the new age. But what do you manufacture? Deformed cripples and cretins, women who inspire only disgust, men who are more like wild beasts, children who, if they were alive, would be regarded as God’s curse! [ . . . ] Let no one say that that is how these artists see things. From the pictures submitted for exhibition, I must assume that the eye of some men shows them things different from the way they really are. There really are men who can see in the shapes of our people only decayed cretins; who feel that meadows are blue, the heavens green, clouds sulfur-yellow. They like to say that they experience these things in this way.I do not want to argue about whether or not they really experience this. But in the name of the German people I only want to prevent these pitiable unfortunates, who clearly suffer from defective vision, from attempting with their chatter to force on their contemporaries the results of their faulty observations, and indeed from presenting them as “art.” Here there are only two possibilities open: either these so-called artists really do see things this way and believe in that which they create — and if so, one has to investigate how this defective vision arose — if it is a mechanical problem or if it came about through heredity. The first case would be pitiable, while the second would be a matter for the Ministry of the Interior, which would then deal with the problem of preventing the perpetuation of such horrid disorders. Or they themselves do not believe in the reality of such impressions, but are for different reasons attempting to annoy the nation with this humbug. If this is the case, then it is a matter for a criminal court.This House, in any case, was not planned or built for the works of art incompetents or for maltreaters of art. A thousand workmen did not labor for four and a half years on this building only to have creations exhibited here by people who are lazy to excess and who spend but five hours bespattering a canvas, while hoping confidently that the boldness of thepricing would produce the desired effect and result in the hailing of the work as the most brilliant lightning-birth of a genius. No, the hard work of the builders of this House demands equally hard work from those who want to exhibit here. I do not care in the least if these pseudo-artists then are left to cackle over each other’s eggs!The artist does not create for the artist, but for the people! We will see to it that from here on the people will be called on to judge their own art. No one must say that the people have no appreciation for a truly valuable enrichment of its cultural life. Long before the critics did justice to the genius of a Richard Wagner he had the people on his side. For their part, however, during the last few years the people have had no affinity for the so-called modern art that was placed before them. The mass of the people moved through our art exhibits in a completely uninterested fashion or stayed away altogether. The people’s healthy perceptions recognized that all these smearings of canvas were really the outcome of an impudent and unashamed arrogance or of a simply shocking lack of skill. Millions of people felt instinctively that these art-stammerings of the last few decades were more like the achievements that might have been produced by untalented children of from eight to ten years old and could under no circumstances be regarded as the expression of our own time or of the German future.
Since we know today that the development of millions of years repeats itself in every individual but is compressed into a few decades, we have the proof that an artistic creation that does not surpass the achievement of eight-year-old children is not “modern” or even “futuristic” but is, on the contrary, highly archaic. It probably is not as developed as the art of the Stone Age period, when people scratched pictures of their environment on the walls of caves. [ . . . ]I know, therefore, that when the Volk passes through these galleries it will recognize in me its own spokesman and counselor [ . . . ] it will draw a sigh of relief and joyously express its agreement with this purification of art. And this is decisive, for an art that cannot count on the ready inner agreement of the broad, healthy mass of the people, but which must instead rely on the support of small, partially indifferent cliques, is intolerable. [ . . . ] We are convinced that the German people will again fully support and joyously appreciate the future truly great artists from within their ranks. [ . . . ]This exhibition then is but a beginning. [ . . . ] But the opening of this exhibit is also the beginning of the end of the stultification of German art and the end of the cultural destruction of our people. [ . . . ] Many of our young artists will recognize the path they will have to take; they will draw inspiration from the greatness of the time in which we all live, and they will draw the courage to work hard and will in the end complete the task. And when a sacred conscientiousness at last comes into its own, then, I have no doubt, the Almighty will lift from this mass of decent creators of art, several individuals who will rise to the eternal star-covered heaven of immortal, God-favored artists of great ages. [ . . . ] We believe that especially today, when in so many spheres the highest individual achievements are standing the test, so also in the sphere of art will the highest value of personality again emerge to assert itself.Source of English translation: Benjamin Sax and Dieter Kuntz, eds., INSIDE HITLER’S GERMANY: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF LIFE IN THE THIRD REICH. 1st edition. Lexington, MA, and Toronto: D.C. Heath & Company, 1992, pp. 224-32.Materials from Sax, INSIDE HITLER’S GERMANY, 1st edition, displayed with special permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved.Source of original German text: Völkischer Beobachter, July 19, 1937. Munich edition. 200th Issue. 50th Volume. Title page; reprinted in Peter-Klaus Schuster, ed., Die “Kunststadt” München 1937. Nationalsozialismus und “Entartete Kunst.” Munich: Prestel Verlag, 1987, pp. 249-52.

Entartete Kunst


Degenerate Art

 Art of the Enemy, Tool of Propaganda


As early as 1927 the National Socialist Society for German Culture was established which had the dual aims of halting the “corruption of art” and relaying to the German people the relationship between art and race.  Art that did not support National Socialism was labeled “degenerate”. Said art might also be referred to as “Jewish” or “Bolshevik”.  Whether works were deemed acceptable was almost solely determined by Hitler who had a very specific attitude toward art.

                                                The House of German ArtIn July 1937, upon the opening of the House of German Art in Munich, Hitler gave a speech which denounced Modern art as simply “temporary” and accussed Modern artists who portrayed the world contradictory to reality of either having vision defects or of committing criminal acts just because they chose to paint a sky any color other than the natural blue.  Hitler also took the occassion to blame the Jewry for the downfall of art and stress the importance of having a purely German art to express the superiority of the Aryan race. The beliefs Hitler expressed were largely influenced by the architect and painter Paul Schultze-Naumburg.  Both believed classical Greece and the Middle Ages should be looked to as the sources for what would be truly Aryan art.  “Socialist” realism was what Hitler wanted from art and thus he rejected many of the popular movements of the time including cubism, Dada-ism, surrealism, symbolism, impressionism, and Fauvism not to mention anything else that might be considered remotely avant-garde.  In fact, avant-garde artists in Germany were even forbidden to paint under the Reich.

In conjuncture with the opening of the museum was the opening of the “Entartete Kunst” exhibit.  Six hundred and fifty works were put on display while over 20,000 works had been confiscated from museums and collections under grounds of degeneracy. These confiscations were legalized after the fact. The exhibit was meant to be instructional so each piece was accompanied by a card explaining exactly why it was unacceptable as German Art. Furthermore, the works were poorly hung, crowded together, and often unframed.  The walls were otherwise covered in slogans made to look like graffitti.  The sole purpose of these slogans was to debase the works of art and their artists. And while the goal of the exhibit was mainly to foster hatred toward the degenerate Jewish/Bolshevist population only 6 of 112 of the artists whose pieces appeared in the exhibit were actually Jewish. Simply destroying the works would have created martyrs and public sympathy. The exhibit was visited by more than 3 million people and later traveled to 11 other cities in Germany and Austria.  It was the ultimate propaganda display.

To see footage of the exhibit click here.

Below are just a few of the artists whose work was confiscated and exhibited in 1937 along with some examples of their work. 

chagall1.bmp    chagall2.jpgMarc Chagall

  I and the Village   1911                         The White Cricifixion   1938

Max Ernst                              

L’Ange du Foyer      1937                 


klee1.jpg        Paul Klee        klee2.jpg

                      Dream City                                                                                     Senecio   1922


Composition VII 

Wassily Kandinsky

The first three paintings in this series of ten were confiscated, displayed, and then destroyed.

Many of the pieces confiscated under Hitler’s rule were sold after the Entartete Kunst exhibit to museums and collectors outside the German realm. Others were, like the Kandinskys, were destroyed. Some simply disappeared. 


Added by nusch on 17 Aug 2012 09:25

❝ Degenerate art: Artists in the 1937 Munich show

Average listal rating (0 ratings) 0  IMDB Rating 0

1. Otto Freundlich

After 1925, Freundlich lived and worked mainly in France. In Germany, his work was condemned by the Nazis as degenerate and removed from public display. Some works were seized and displayed at the infamous Nazi exhibition of degenerate art including his monumental sculpture Der Neue Mensch (The New Man) which was photographed unsympathetically and used as the cover illustration of the exhibition catalogue. Der Neue Mensch was never recovered and is assumed to have been destroyed. One of his sculptures was recovered in an excavation in Berlin and put on display at the Neues Museum.
Average listal rating (5 ratings) 7.4  IMDB Rating 0

2. Paul Klee

His varied color palettes, some with bright colors and others sober, perhaps reflected his alternating moods of optimism and pessimism.Germany in 1937, seventeen of Klee’s pictures were included in an exhibition of “Degenerate art” and 102 of his works in public collections were seized by the Nazis.
Elfriede Lohse Wächtler was a German painter of the avant-garde whose works were banned as “degenerate art”, and in some cases destroyed, by the Third Reich. She was killed in a former psychiatric institution at Sonnenstein castle in Pirna under Action T4, a forced euthanasia program of Nazi Germany. Since 2000 a memorial center for the T4 program in the house commemorates her life and work in a permanent exhibition.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6  IMDB Rating 0

4. Ernst Barlach

Das Magdeburger Ehrenmal (the Magdeburg cenotaph), by Ernst Barlach was declared to be degenerate art due to the “deformity” and emaciation of the figures—corresponding to Nordau’s theorized connection between “mental and physical degeneration.”
In 1933, Kirchner was labelled a “degenerate artist” by the Nazis and asked for his resignation from the Berlin Academy of Arts; in 1937, over 600 of his works were confiscated from public museums in Germany and were sold or destroyed. In 1938, the psychological trauma of these events, along with the Nazi occupation of Austria, close to his home, led to his suicide.
Average listal rating (2 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

6. Emil Nolde

Membership in the Nazi Party did not protect Emil Nolde, whose 1912 woodcut The Prophet is shown here, from being proscribed by Hitler. 1,052 of Nolde’s paintings were removed from German museums, more than any other artist.
Average listal rating (17 ratings) 7.1  IMDB Rating 0

7. Wassily Kandinsky

Nazi raid on the Bauhaus in the 1930s resulted in the confiscation of Kandinsky’s first three Compositions. They were displayed in the State-sponsored exhibit “Degenerate Art”, and then destroyed (along with works by Paul Klee, Franz Marc and other modern artists).
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

8. Cesar Klein

In the years after World War I Klein was associated with Walter Gropius, though he turned down Gropius’s offer of a teaching position at the Bauhaus. Through the 1920s and after, Klein devoted much of his work to designs for theater and film production. He was the set designer for Robert Wiene’s 1920 film Genuine, and for the 1924 production of Ernst Toller’s Hinkemann.
Klein was included in the famous Degenerate Art exhibition mounted by the Nazi regime in 1937. He was able to resume his career in theatrical design after World War II. He died in 1954, at Pansdorf near Lübeck.
Average listal rating (10 ratings) 8.5  IMDB Rating 0

9. Oskar Kokoschka

Deemed a degenerate by the Nazis, Kokoschka fled Austria in 1934 for Prague. In Prague his name was adopted by a group of other expatriate artists, the Oskar-Kokoschka-Bund (OKB), though he declined to otherwise participate. In 1938, when the Czechs began to mobilize for the expected invasion of the Wehrmacht, he fled to the United Kingdom and remained there during the war. With the help of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Refugee Trust Fund), all members of the OKB were able to escape through Poland and Sweden.
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (3 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

10. George Grosz

George Grosz / 1920 / Sonniges Land
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

11. Jankel Adler

In 1937, twenty-five of his works were seized from public collections by the Nazis and four were shown in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9  IMDB Rating 0

12. Rudolf Bauer

In 1938, upon his return from an exhibition of his work in Paris, Bauer was arrested by the Nazis for his “degenerate” art and for speculating on the black market — meaning selling his work to Guggenheim. The previous year Bauer’s work had been included in the infamous Degenerate Art show in Munich, organized by the Nazis to show all the deviant, abstract art. In spite of this Bauer had refused to move from his home country. Upon his arrest Bauer was held in a Gestapo prison for several months, as Rebay and Guggenheim worked to free him. After several false starts, he was finally released unconditionally in August 1938. During his time in prison, he created dozens of non-objective drawings on scavenged scraps of paper.
Average listal rating (4 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

13. Franz Marc

Marc gave an emotional meaning or purpose to the colors he used in his work: blue was used for masculinity and spirituality, yellow represented feminine joy, and red encased the sound of violence. After the National Socialists took power, they suppressed modern art; in 1936 and 1937, the Nazis condemned Marc as an entarteter Künstler (degenerate artist), and ordered that approximately 130 of his works be taken from exhibit in German museums.
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9  IMDB Rating 0

14. Philipp Bauknecht

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

15. Willi Baumeister

On the 31st of March 1933, following the National Socialist rise to power, Baumeister was dismissed from his professorship at the Städel. Thereafter he earned his living mainly from commercial art, he was still however able to travel to Switzerland, Italy, and France. In the same year, his daughter Felicitas was born. In 1936 he was introduced by the Wuppertaler architect Heinz Rasch, with whom he work during the 1924 Exhibition in Stuttgart, to Dr. Kurt Herberts, the owner of a varnish factory in Wuppertal. He began working for the company in 1937, joining other artists ostracized by the National Socialist regime: Franz Krause, Alfred Lörcher, Georg Muche, and Oskar Schlemmer, and the art historian Hans Hildebrandt. That year five of his works were shown in the National Socialist exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate art) in Munich.
Until 1941, when a ban on his paintings and exhibitions was issued by the National Arts Chamber, Baumeister still had many opportunities to exhibit his works abroad in Europe. Despite the prohibition and the constant surveillance, he still worked at the Herberts varnish factory, as well as on his art. In 1943, when a bomb attack rendered Wuppertal as well as Baumeister’s house in Stuttgart uninhabitable, he moved with his family to Urach in the Swabian Alps.
Average listal rating (5 ratings) 8.6  IMDB Rating 0

16. Herbert Bayer

In 1928, Bayer left the Bauhaus to become art director of Vogue magazine’s Berlin office. He remained in Germany far later than most other progressives. In 1936 he designed a brochure for the Deutschland Ausstellung, an exhibition for tourists in Berlin during the 1936 Olympic Games – the brochure celebrated life in the Third Reich, and the authority of Hitler. However, in 1937, works of Bayer’s were included in the Nazi propaganda exhibition “Degenerate Art”, upon which he left Germany.
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

17. Max Beckmann

His fortunes changed with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, whose dislike of Modern Art quickly led to its suppression by the state. In 1933, the Nazi government called Beckmann a “cultural Bolshevik” and dismissed him from his teaching position at the Art School in Frankfurt. In 1937 more than 500 of his works were confiscated from German museums, and several of these works were put on display in the notorious Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich. The day after Hitler’s infamous radio speech about degenerate art in 1937, Beckmann left Germany with his second wife, Quappi. For ten years, Beckmann lived in poverty in self-imposed exile in Amsterdam, failing in his desperate attempts to obtain a visa for the US. In 1944 the Germans attempted to draft him into the army, despite the fact that the sixty-year-old artist had suffered a heart attack. =
Average listal rating (0 ratings) 0  IMDB Rating 0

18. Paul Camenisch

Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

19. Heinrich Campendonk

When the Nazi regime came to power in 1933, he was among the many modernists condemned as degenerate artists, and prohibited from exhibiting. He moved to the Netherlands, where he spent the rest of his life working at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, first teaching Decorative Art, printmaking and stained-glass, then as the Academy Director.
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (18 ratings) 8.1  IMDB Rating 0

20. Marc Chagall

Beginning during 1937 about twenty thousand works from German museums were confiscated as “degenerate” by a committee directed by Joseph Goebbels. Although the German press had once “swooned over him”, the new German authorities now made a mockery of Chagall’s art, describing them as “green, purple, and red Jews shooting out of the earth, fiddling on violins, flying through the air … representing assault on Western civilization”.
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (3 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

21. Lovis Corinth

nusch ‘s rating:
Davringhausen went into exile with the fall of the Weimar republic in 1933, first going to Majorca, then to France. In Germany approximately 200 of his works were removed from public museums by the Nazis on the grounds that they were degenerate art. Prohibited from exhibiting, Davringhausen was interned in Cagnes-sur-Mer but fled to Côte D’ Azur. In 1945 however he returned to Cagnes-sur-Mer, a suburb of Nice, where he remained for the rest of his life. He worked as an abstract painter under the name Henri Davring until his death in 1970.
Average listal rating (3 ratings) 9.3  IMDB Rating 0

23. Otto Dix

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they regarded Dix as a degenerate artist and had him sacked from his post as an art teacher at the Dresden Academy. He later moved to Lake Constance in the southwest of Germany. Dix’s paintings The Trench and War cripples were exhibited in the state-sponsored Munich 1937 exhibition of degenerate art, Entartete Kunst. They were later burned.
Dix, like all other practicing artists, was forced to join the Nazi government’s Reich Chamber of Fine Arts (Reichskammer der bildenden Kuenste), a subdivision of Goebbels’ Cultural Ministry (Reichskulturkammer). Membership was mandatory for all artists in the Reich. Dix had to promise to paint only inoffensive landscapes. He still painted an occasional allegorical painting that criticized Nazi ideals.
In 1939 he was arrested on a trumped-up charge of being involved in a plot against Hitler (see Georg Elser), but was later released.
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (20 ratings) 8.2  IMDB Rating 0

24. Max Ernst

“L’Ange du Foyer” (1937)During the Nazi regime, works by Max Ernst were included in the 1937 “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) mockery exhibition, as examples of degradation in art.
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 5  IMDB Rating 0

25. Hans Feibusch

Feibusch was born to Jewish parents and studied in Paris under Andre L’Hote. He was becoming successful as an artist when the Third Reich made his life in Germany impossible. He was one of the artists exhibited in the 1937 Degenerate Art Exhibition (Entartete Kunst) put on by the Nazis to highlight the modernist trends in art they opposed. Feibusch was one of a minority of artists included whose work was relatively conservative, and he was probably included for his Jewish heritage. His works in that exhibition, now lost, were two paintings of angels.
Average listal rating (2 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

26. Lyonel Feininger

When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, the situation became unbearable for Feininger and his wife. The Nazi Party declared his work to be “degenerate.” They moved to America after his work was exhibited in the ‘degenerate art’ (Entartete Kunst) in 1936, but before the 1937 exhibition in Munich. He taught at Mills College before returning to New York.
Average listal rating (2 ratings) 6  IMDB Rating 0

27. Conrad Felixmuller

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

28. Otto Gleichmann

He took part in the Hannoversche Sezession from 1918, where he met Kurt Schwitters, among others, and became friends with Theodor Däubler. His exhibition was banned, and he was named a degenerate artist in 1938.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

29. Hans Grundig

Following the fall of the Weimar Republic, Grundig was declared a degenerate artist by the Nazis, who included his works in the defamatory Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich in 1937. He expressed his antagonism toward the regime in paintings such as The Thousand Year Reich (1936). Forbidden to practice his profession, he was arrested twice—briefly in 1936, and again in 1938, after which he was interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp from 1940–1944.
Average listal rating (4 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

30. Raoul Hausmann

Organised by Hausmann, Grosz and Heartfield, along with Max Ernst, the fair was to become the most famous of all Berlin Dada’s exploits, featuring almost 200 works by artists including Francis Picabia, Hans Arp, Ernst, Otto Dix & Rudolf Schlichter, as well as key works by Grosz, Höch and Hausmann. The work Tatlin At Home, 1920, can be clearly seen in one of the publicity photos taken by a professional photographer; the exhibition, whilst financially unsuccessful, gained prominent exposure in Amsterdam, Milan, Rome and Boston.[13] The exhibition also proved to be one of the main influences on the content and layout of Entartete Kunst, the show of degenerate art put on by the Nazis in 1937, with key slogans such as ‘Nehmen Sie DADA Ernst’ (Take Dada seriously!) appearing in both exhibitions.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6  IMDB Rating 0

31. Erich Heckel

In 1937, The Nazis deemed his art “Degenerate.” 729 works were expelled from German museums. In January 1944, his studio was bombed and all of his blocks and plates were destroyed. He later moved to Lake Constance where he took up graphics again but these later works are overshadowed by the genius of his early works.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9  IMDB Rating 0

32. Jacoba van Heemskerck

Tulips are here again (Day IV):‘Compositie No. 1, Tulpen in een Vaas’ – Jacoba van Heemskerck.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9  IMDB Rating 0

33. Oswald Herzog

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

34. Heinrich Hoerle

In 1929 he began publication of “a-z”, a journal of progressive artists. He was among the many German artists whose works were condemned as degenerate art when the Nazis took power in 1933. He died in Cologne in 1936.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 5  IMDB Rating 0

35. Karl Hofer

One of the most prominent painters of expressionism, he never was a member of one of the expressionist painting groups, like “Die Brücke”, who influenced him. His work was considered degenerate art by the Nazis, and only after World War II did he regain recognition as one of the greatest German painters.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6  IMDB Rating 0

36. Johannes Itten

Johannes Itten – Der Bachsänger (1938)
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6  IMDB Rating 0

37. Alexej Von Jawlensky

Meditation, 1934
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

38. Wilhelm Lehmbruck

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6  IMDB Rating 0

39. El Lissitzky

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

40. Gerhard Marcks

In September 1925, the Bauhaus was relocated to Dessau, and its Pottery Workshop was discontinued. Marcks moved instead to the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts) in Burg Giebichenstein near Halle. After the death of its director, Paul Thiersch, Marcks was named his replacement, a position he continued in until his dismissal in 1933. He was fired because his work was deemed unsuitable by the Nazis, with the result that several works were in the infamous exhibition of “degenerate art” in Munich in 1937, along with that of other Bauhaus artists, among them Herbert Bayer, Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Schlemmer and Lothar Schreyer.
Despite such persecution, Marcks continued to live in Germany (in Mecklenburg) throughout World War II. In 1937, when twenty-four of his works were confiscated and destroyed by the Nazis, he was prohibited from exhibiting and threatened with being forbidden to work. During this period, he made several trips to Italy, where he worked in the Villa Romana in Florence and the Villa Massimo in Rome. In 1943, his studio in Berlin was bombed during an air raid, and many of his works destroyed.
Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8.5  IMDB Rating 0

41. Ewald Matare

Mataré was denounced as “degenerate” and expelled from his position. One of his sculptures “Die Katze” (The cat) was placed into the exhibition of shame and derision “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) staged by the Nazis in Munich, 1937.
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8.5  IMDB Rating 0

42. Ludwig Meidner

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

43. Jean Metzinger

Average listal rating (3 ratings) 7.3  IMDB Rating 0

44. László Moholy-Nagy

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9  IMDB Rating 0

45. Marg Moll

Average listal rating (13 ratings) 8.2  IMDB Rating 0

46. Piet Mondrian

Composition II, in Red, Blue and Yellow- Piet Mondrian (1930)
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9  IMDB Rating 0

47. Georg Muche

Thirteen Muche paintings and two prints were confiscated from museums by the Nazis and at least two of those works were displayed in the 1937 Munich exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art).
Average listal rating (2 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

48. Otto Mueller

In 1937 the Nazis seized 357 of his works from German museums, since the pictures were considered to be degenerate art.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 8  IMDB Rating 0

49. Ernst Wilhelm Nay

Two of his works were shown in the notorious exhibition of “Degenerate art” and Nay was forbidden to exhibit any longer. He wasn’t even allowed to paint nor buy ready made colours.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

50. Otto Pankok

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Pankok was declared a degenerate artist. Subsequently, 56 of his pictures were seized from museums, some of which were included in the infamous exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art), mounted by the Nazis in Munich in 1937.

Degenerate art: Artists in the 1937 Munich show

Sort by: Showing 51-61 of 61
Next »2« Prev
Average listal rating (2 ratings) 6.5  IMDB Rating 0

51. Max Pechstein

Beginning in 1933, Pechstein was vilified by the Nazis because of his art. 326 of his paintings were removed from German museums. 16 of his works were displayed in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition of 1937. During this time, Pechstein went into seclusion in rural Pomerania.
Average listal rating (6 ratings) 7.7  IMDB Rating 0

52. Hans Richter

Filmstudie (Hans Richter, 1926)“We destroyed, we insulted, we despised—and we laughed. We laughed at everything. We laughed at ourselves just as we laughed at Emperor, King, and Country, fat bellies and baby-pacifiers. We took our laughter seriously; laughter was the only guarantee of the seriousness with which, on our voyage of self-discovery, we practised anti-art. But laughter was on the expression of our new discoveries, not their essence and not their purpose. Pandemonium, destruction, anarchy, anti-everything—why should we hold it in check? What of the pandemonium, destruction, anarchy, anti-everything, of the World War? How could Dada have been anything but destructive, aggressive, insolent, on principle and with gusto? In return for freely exposing ourselves to ridicule every day, we surely had a right to call the bourgeois a bulging haybag and the public a stall of oxen? We no longer contented ourselves with reforming pictorial art or versification. We would have nothing more to do with the sort of human or inhuman being who used reason as a juggernaut, crushing acres of corpses—as well as ourselves—beneath its wheels. We wanted to bring forward a new kind of human being, one whose contemporaries we could wish to be, free from the tyranny of rationality, of banality, of generals, fatherlands, nations, art-dealers, microbes, residence permits and the past.”-Hans Richter, Dada: Art and Anti-Art
nusch ‘s rating:
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9  IMDB Rating 0

53. Emy Roeder

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

54. Christian Rohlfs

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 9  IMDB Rating 0

55. Edwin Scharff

Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

56. Oskar Schlemmer

He was obliged to leave the Breslau Academy when it was closed down in the wake of the financial crisis following the Wall Street Crash, and took up a professorship at Berlin’s Vereinigte Staatsschulen in 1932, which he held until 1933 when he was forced to resign due to pressure from the Nazis. The Schlemmers then moved to Eichberg near the Swiss border, and then to Sehringen before his pictures were displayed at the National Socialist exhibition of “Degenerate art.” The last ten years of his life were spent in a state of ‘inner emigration’. Max Bill, in his obituary of Schlemmer, wrote that it was ‘as if a curtain of silence’ had descended over him during this time.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 6  IMDB Rating 0

57. Lothar Schreyer

In 1933 he converted to the Catholicism. During the 1930s, he was concerned with Christian mysticism and folk ideas, and ultimately the Nazi ideology, signing the Gelöbnis treuester Gefolgschaft, the 1933 declaration in which 88 German authors vowed faithful allegiance to Adolf Hitler. However, his work was included in the “Degenerate art” exhibition of 1937.
Average listal rating (2 ratings) 6.5  IMDB Rating 0

58. Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters
Merzbild Rossfett c.1919
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 10  IMDB Rating 0

59. Lasar Segall

The positive feedback considers Segall one of Brazil’s most influential modernist artists. Although, back in Europe, his work was considered degenerate and preposterous. Specifically in Germany, his artwork was no longer able to be shown in exhibits. Fascism was rising quickly in Germany and many believed Segall’s work to portray negatively on Europe’s economic status due to the largely acknowledged outbreak of war.
Average listal rating (1 ratings) 7  IMDB Rating 0

60. William Wauer

Average listal rating (3 ratings) 8.7  IMDB Rating 0

61. Gert Heinrich Wollheim

Immediately after Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 his works were declared degenerate art and many were destroyed. He fled to France and became active in the Resistance. He was one of the co-founders of the artists’ federation, the Union des Artistes Allemandes Libres. An organization of exiled German artists, it was founded in Paris in autumn 1937. Meanwhile, in Munich, three of his pictures were displayed in the defamatory Nazi exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in 1937.
nusch ‘s rating:



Hitler’s ‘Degenerate Art’

In a new exhibit, Munich’s Neue Pinakothek shows off 16 sculptures deemed ‘degenerate’ by Adolf Hitler.

Parade on the ‘Day of German Art’ in front of the ‘House of German Art’ in 1939
Hitler and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels put together an exhibit in 1937 of roughly 600 ‘degenerate’ works of art.
Hitler considered Edwin Scharff’s portrait of the pre-war actress Anni Mewes, shown here after restoration, to be degenerate.
image Edwin Scharff’s bust
‘Female Dancer,’ a circa 1930 statue by the female artist Marg Moll (1884-1977)

A prewar depiction of Marg Moll’s circa 1930 statue ‘Female Dancer,’ derided by Hitler and damaged in a fire in Berlin in 1944.


‘Anything that exposed individuality or put emotions at the fore or showed weakness were qualities considered “degenerate,”‘ says Matthias Wemhoff. That includes Emy Roeder’s statue of a vulnerable pregnant woman, shown here in its prewar state. Only the head has survived.

Accompanied by Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels, the Italian consul Dino Alfieri visits the ‘Great German Art Exhibition’ in the ‘House of German Art’ on the ‘Day of German Art’ on July 16, 1939.

Poster of the 1937 Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung
Poster of the 1937 Great German Art Exhibition

Munich 1937:
The Development of Two Pivotal Art Exhibitions

by Ursula A. Ginder
March 18, 2004, revised June 2004

graduate student paper for
UCSB History 133C, Winter 2004, Prof. Marcuse

Hist 133c homepage; 133c projects index page
Student Research Papers page

Entartete Kunst Exhibition Guide
“Degenerate Art” Exhibition Guide, 1937

Introduction Kulturpolitik:
Modern vs. Traditional
“Great German Art”
“Degenerate Art”
Works cited;

Introduction (back to top) When Hitler struck the first stone in the ground breaking ceremony for the Haus der deutschen Kunst in 1933, he proclaimed that “this temple will house a new German art.” Recalling the legacy of King Ludwig I, he promised the German people a “rebirth of Athens by the Isar” in which German art would triumph.[1]Hitler’s promise of a monumental temple was fulfilled on July 18, 1937, when the first Great German Art Exhibition opened to a limited audience of selected members of the public and international dignitaries. But did his vision of a new German art materialize? Was the opening of the monumental museum a serious dedication of a shrine for a contemporary German art that would celebrate the national socialist ideal? Or was the exhibition a failed attempt to eradicate Germany’s internationally acclaimed modern art which was simultaneously exhibited at the “Degenerate Art” show a few blocks away? It was intended as both. And the Third Reich failed in achieving either. German avant-garde art survived the Third Reich’s attempt to suppress it and a new German art symbolizing Hitler’s ideal of Aryan supremacy, although madly promoted after the opening of the Haus der Kunst, never became anything more than a temporary symbol of a rejected regime. These failures were forecast in the 1937 exhibitions, as the Third Reich scrambled to display an obscenely distorted presentation of the avant-garde in a vain effort to elevate the mediocre exhibition in the Reich’s new museum. In this paper I will examine how Nationalist Socialist propaganda surrounding aesthetic policies was focused on diminishing Germany’s avant-garde rather than sponsoring the promised ideal of a new German art.Although Hitler dreamed of a new German art, he never articulated or demanded specific criteria for his ideal. In-fighting for power within the Kulturkammer took precedence over clear guidelines about “acceptable” contemporary German art. The struggle for influence over a new German culture distracted attention from the construction of coherent standards. National Socialist propaganda surrounding aesthetic policies focused on the “Verfallkunst” (art of decay) of Germany’s avant-garde rather than on the ideal evoked by Hitler. At the opening of both exhibitions, the first “Great German Art Exhibition” in the Haus der Kunst and the “Degenerate Art” exhibition in the Hofgarten, strategically set one day apart, it was ultimately the shunned modern art which triumphed. While the artificially created chaos of the “degenerate” art show provided viewers with a unique overview of modern German and international art, the properly displayed art in the light-filled halls of the “temple of German art” showed merely mediocre, provincial art, art that was not, like Hitler promised, revolutionary, but rather a return to aesthetic standards of the previous century.The Haus der deutschen Kunst, a monumental colossus of sandstone and marble, was fashioned after Schinkel’s neo-classical Old Museum in Berlin. The opening ceremony on July 18, 1937 was preceded by pageants and festivities celebrating “Two Thousand Years of German Art” paying tribute to Germanic and Hellenist heritage and honoring Dürer and Cranach as the culmination in German art. “This temple,” Hitler had proclaimed at the ground laying ceremony in October 1933, “will be part of the immortal achievement of the German artistic heritage”.[2] The original plan was to fill the Haus der Kunst with art which would pay tribute to Germany’s two thousand years of culture. However, as the date of the opening approached, the euphoric promise changed. Without consulting with anybody, Hitler suddenly and categorically demanded that “a comprehensive and high-quality display of contemporary art” be collected for the opening of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst. His intent was obvious. He wanted to demonstrate to the world the triumph of German art under his leadership, as Führer of the Third Reich. We can only speculate what Hitler considered “high-quality”. As the commissioner for the State of Bavaria, Adolf Wagner pronounced at the opening, “nothing that is unfinished or problematic” will make its way into the House of German Art.[3] This reflected the Führer’s conviction that only pictures which are uplifting and as close to nature as a photograph would be worthy of being called “good” art.[4]This sudden shift in emphasis, from showing existing cultural treasures spanning two thousand years to art created within a mere couple of years, was disconcerting to many of his artistic advisors.[5] How could he demand an art that had barely been articulated, an art representative of the Third Reich? It was clear to Hitler that there was no place for avant-garde art in the new German culture being forged by him and his party. But less clear was the criteria for a new German art that would embody the National Socialist ideology. Although there was plenty of rhetoric threatening to replace all that was sick in German culture with something new, healthy and pure, there were no guidelines as to what this art would look like or which of the already existing traditional modes by practicing artists might pass as pure German art in the sense of the aesthetic policies of the National Socialists.[6] According to Petropoulos a lack of resolve toward the question of modern art and the formulation of a new aesthetic in the visual arts for the new Germany was due to the bureaucratic in-fighting in the various departments of the Kulturkammer.[7]

Cultural Policy: Goebbels’ Modernism vs. Rosenberg and Hitler’s Traditionalism (back to top) Although Hitler was maniacal about having a new German art as a cultural standard for his Third Reich, he was not decisively involved in the art debate. Instead, he allowed Joseph Goebbels, the head of the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, to originate and drive the propaganda that dominated all areas of the National Socialist Kulturpolitik, including a new art for Germany.Hitler initially had conflicting views about modern art. While he expressed his dislike for the Futurists and Dadaists, he still professed admiration for the Expressionist Ernst Barlach. His active opposition to the avant-garde as a whole emerged only gradually.[8] As the “Great German Art Exhibition” from 1937 demonstrated, Hitler’s taste in art was petit Bourgeois and centered around Austrian and Bavarian genre and landscape paintings and the ideologically charged “blood-and-soil” subject matter promoted by some of the Heimatkünstler of the Worpswede art colony.[9] Hitler’s office was decorated with traditional representations of state power, such as history paintings and allegories of masculine heroism, mimicking the artistic taste of the Wilhelmine empire. Like the people he surrounded himself with, he lacked sophisticated knowledge of the many trends in modern art beginning with French Impressionism. A frustrated artist who was denied access to the Art Academy in Vienna twice, he sublimated his festering insecurity by attacking all those artists who succeeded – the Dadaists, the Futurists, the Expressionists. He then anointed himself as the savior of German culture who would bring back that which he and the Volk understood, “das Naturgetreue” (true to nature), the sentimental, and the heroic. Ultimately, painting was a secondary interest once he decided that he would not only be the architect of the Third Reich but the architect as well of a monumental grandeur in his National Socialist building program. The Haus der Kunst was his first project.While Hitler’s taste in art was rather provincial, Goebbels was a sophisticated connoisseur and admirer of the French Impressionists and the various trends in German vanguard art. He was a major proponent of Germany’s modern art, which he expressed through various statements in liberal leaning magazines, such as the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung or the pro-modernist journal Kunst. Goebbels supported pro-modernist groups, such as the German Expressionists and the Italian Futurists until the end of 1935. He praised the New Objectivity movement as the “German art of the next decade” and promised in a passionate speech before the Reichskulturkammer in 1934 “we guarantee absolute freedom for the arts”.[10]  Paradoxically, while he spoke for freedom in the visual arts, Goebbels instigated one of the first anti-Semitic and anti-intellectual excesses in 1933, the book burnings.[11] And he stood by while “subversive” writers and intellectuals were sent to concentration camps.From the beginning of Hitler’s “seizure of power” in 1933, the question of the role of modern art in Third Reich Kulturpolitik was fodder for an ongoing public battle between Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg, the head of the Combat League for German Culture and the editor of the party newspaper Der Völkische Beobachter. Goebbels and Rosenberg expressed their opposing positions in speeches and articles. Rosenberg’s articles promoted radically traditionalist views, such as the idealization of peasants, the rejection of all non-traditional aesthetic styles, in particular the style particular to “cultural bolshevism.” Goebbels, an admirer of international modernism, held a deep antipathy against the völkisch ideals articulated by Rosenberg and his equals, which Hitler seemed to share with him for a while.It is against this backdrop of internal power struggle in the yet embryonic structure of National Socialist Kulturpolitik that spontaneous earlier excesses against the art world took place. Examples are the smaller exhibitions of “subversive” art, called Schandausstellungen that began to appear in many major cities of Germany in 1933. These shows were locally and privately engineered events whose goal it was to incite anti-modernist views in the public. In a Karlsruhe exhibition titled “German Government Art 1918-1930” state museums were attacked for purchasing modern art while they supposedly kept traditional artworks in storage. [12] Cultural decline was blamed on modern art in “November Spirit – Art in the Service of Decay,” a show promoted in Stuttgart. “Horror Chambers of Art” were staged in a row of trailers in Dessau and Nürnberg and created an atmosphere of the carnavalesque. These were but a few of the non-state sponsored forerunners to the infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition in Munich in 1937.[13] While a campaign to demonize modern art was ongoing, attempts to promote “racially pure and high-quality” art were simultaneously organized by the “German Art Association”, a conservative group of academic artists. The first rather unsuccessful “educational” touring exhibition titled “First Exhibition of German Art” took place as early as 1933 and is described in Schuster’s Die ‘Kunststadt’ München 1937.[14]Outwardly the squabbles between the various authorities in the Kulturkammer were battles for control over the Reich’s aesthetic politics. For Goebbels it was a fight for a spot in the sun, next to his Führer. Thus, once he sensed that Hitler’s interest in the debate over modern art became politicized, he quickly and irreversibly changed his tune about modern art. [15] One could pinpoint Goebbel’s “change of heart” to Hitler’s speech at the Reichsparteitag in 1935 where Hitler expressed that “the Dadaists, Cubists, and those futuristic expressive ones and those objective chatterers will under no circumstances participate in our cultural renaissance. Thus we acknowledge that we have overcome the degeneration of our culture.”[16] Goebbels’ loyalty to Hitler, his fervent nationalist feelings, and his avid anti-Semitism took precedence over his appreciation of modern art. Pragmatist that he was, however, he waited until after the International Olympic games in the summer of 1936 before he implemented his radical cultural policies. This was part of Hitler’s policy as well who wanted to show a human face to the rest of the world.Goebbels’ radical shift in his aesthetic politics began with the removal of Hönig as the president of the Chamber of Visual Arts in December 1935. He promoted Ziegler, a pedantic painter of female nudes, and Hitler’s artistic advisor since 1929, to the post.[17] At this point, the idea to stage an officially sponsored “degenerate art” show had not yet been articulated. The seeds, however, had been planted by the Schandausstellungen and in the heads of zealots like Wolfgang Willrich, the völkisch art critic and painter who would publish a call to “cleanse the temple of art” in 1937. In the meantime, Hitler who had visions of “a German art that would reflect the passionate will of the Third Reich,” as he proclaimed at the first Kulturtagung des Parteitags (Conference for the Culture of the Party) in 1933, seems to have been concerned merely with the architecture of his ‘temple’ and only vague ideas of what might fill it.[18]In the fall of 1936, less than a year away from the opening of the Haus der Kunst, a surprising announcement was made by the Obergauleiter (regional party leader) Wagner, who was now Minister of Culture for the State of Bavaria as well. Rather than an exhibition of Germany’s cultural treasures over the millennia as was announced at the ground breaking ceremonies in 1933, the Haus der Kunst would be filled with the art of contemporary masters. [19] Not “One Hundred Years of German Art and Sculpture,” a less ambitious plan “tactfully suggested” by Dr. Bucher, the director of the Bavarian State Collection – but “new art” that would evoke the spiritual renewal of Germany.[20] Moreover, the exhibition, which was originally hailed as a symbol for permanence and everlasting glory to German artistic heritage, now was to be the first installment for an annual contemporary art exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in the style of an art market. In December 1936, an open competition notice was sent out to all artists of German nationality or “race”. In response 25,000 artists sent in written proposals and 15,000 works of art.[21] The chaos that ensued once the jury earmarked 1,500 pieces for the exhibition is in stark contrast to the smooth, systematic selection of the government censored art for the first “Degenerate Art” show, which took barely a week.

These changing ideas by Hitler and his artistic advisors caused tremendous confusion and frustration among the artists and the jury. As Hinz explains in his book, “Art in the Third Reich”,  the Haus der Kunst was to replace the Münchner Glaspalast that burned down in 1931. The Glaspalast was an exhibition hall where contemporary art was shown, judged and sold in annual events. Works of art were exhibited in the fashion of an art market, categorized by subject matter. The exhibitions were judged by members of conservative artists’ organizations in Munich. Radically new art was excluded from the show. Generally speaking it was art for the bourgeoisie; genre and landscape art for homes, and large paintings for public buildings and government establishments. Once it was known that the Haus der Kunst was going to exhibit contemporary art and that the exhibition would change annually, artists assumed that any art that traditionally had been shown in the Glaspalast would qualify. This included works that under the new regime would no longer be considered “acceptable”. However, temporary exhibitions, such as were said to be installed at the Haus der Kunst, did imply acceptance of experimental art as well. It is therefore no wonder that now “unacceptable” works made their way to the jury, and were even selected for Hitler to consider.

The first Great German Art Exhibition was to open on July 18th, 1937. A few days before the opening, Hitler walked through the galleries and exploded: “There will be no exhibition this year! These works that have been sent in clearly show that we still don’t have any artists in Germany whose work is worthy of a place in this magnificent building. I hereby disband the Jury of Selectors!”[22] One must question the date of this statement. According to Goebbels’ diary excerpts published in Schuster, Hitler’s first trip to Munich to approve the selection took place on June 5th. It was at this visit to his Haus der Kunst that he was outraged and in a fit personally tore down 89 paintings that were already nailed to the wall. He then dissolved the academic jury and appointed non-artists and non-academics instead. In addition, Hitler ordered 500 more paintings to be removed from the selection process. From 1,500 works of art that had been earmarked for the show, only 884 works by 550 artists made it into the glossy marble halls of the House of German Art.[23] Goebbels described his personal disappointment with the proposed objects for the exhibition as well. “The sculptures are in order, but the paintings are a catastrophe. Some of the pieces make you downright sick … regular Bolshevik art. (…) The Führer is in utmost rage.”[24] And on June 30th Goebbels wrote: “I am thinking again about an exhibition of degenerate art.” And he continued on the same day after talking with Hitler: “Exhibition for degenerate art approved. Probably Munich. (…..) The Führer trusts me greatly. I will not disappoint him.”[25]

It is not hard to imagine that Hitler was anxious about being humiliated by art that did not fulfill his promise to present a vibrant, new and genuine German art to the German Volk. His open dissatisfaction with the art collected for the opening of his temple leads me to believe that it was Goebbels who found a way to dissipate his anxiety. Hitler’s approval of Goebbels’ cleverly schemed plan appears to have been quick and spontaneous. The staging of both the Great German Art Exhibition and the “Degenerate Art” show could then be seen as a didactic instrument to contrast order, discipline and strength in a National Socialist-inspired exhibition, with chaos born from willful corruption by weakness of character, mental disease, and racial impurity.

Because the “Degenerate Art” exhibition is very often contrasted with the Great German Art Exhibition, it is a widely held view that the Haus der Kunst only exhibited Nationalist Socialist iconography in the style of Social Realism. According to Hinz, however, only 1.5% of all the works in this first exhibition represented subject matter particular to National Socialist Germany. The themes shown were for the most part landscapes, nudes, and farmers, in that order. The number of works of art purposely glorifying the Third Reich ideology did increase from year to year.[26] This makes sense because the largest portion of art works was purchased by the government. As artists realized that money was to be made in this large scale art market many of them applied their skill to depict subject matters promoting National Socialists ideals and thereby to gain fame and financial riches. In his book The Faustian Bargain, Petropoulos writes about several of the artists that became famous during the regime, such as the sculptors Thorak and Breker who used their artistic ability to help glorify the Third Reich.[27]

The “Great German Art” Exhibition (back to top) Hitler and visitors at the Great German art exhibition, 1937In his book, Die ‘Kunststadt’ München 1937, Schuster reconstructs the list of works shown at the first exhibition of the Great German Art Exhibition in Munich and supplies illustrated copies of many of the works exhibited. Rather than a revolutionary new German art, what was shown in the Haus der Kunst in 1937 were works by obscure artists that modeled their paintings and sculptures after the realist genre paintings of the previous century. Other artists in the exhibition were those who never gave in to modernist trends and whose fame had been established in late nineteenth century under the ideal of “blood and soil”. Such an artist was Mackensen, the founder of the Worpswede colony. His monumental painting “Prayer in the Moor”, from 1885, was prominently displayed in the 1937 Great German Art Exhibition. Later works show his commitment to National Socialist ideology more drastically.[28] It is obvious, then, from the inventory illustrated in Die ‘Kunststadt’ München 1937 that the first Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung did not fulfill Hitler’s promise of a German art that would reflect the new cultural aesthetics of the Third Reich.What started out as a grandiose plan for a temple with timeless German art, turned into an ostentatious exhibition space and a marketplace for mostly mediocre regurgitated 19th century genre paintings and–still limited–official propaganda art. Not much warranted the slogan “Kunst des Dritten Reiches” in this first Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung.[29] The subject matter that is usually associated with this period in German history – steely eyed, blond warriors, Hitler and his henchmen in uniform, muscular farmers and breast-feeding mothers – increasingly took over the inventory of subsequent exhibitions. Nazi propaganda art emerged as reputable artists, such as the sculptor Kolbe for instance, changed their style to suit Nazi ideology and as mediocre artists, but fanatic followers of the regime, got promoted. The last exhibition of the “Great German Art” took place in 1944.In spite of all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the opening of the Great German Art Exhibition in July 18, 1937, Hitler’s bubble had burst. He had envisioned the grandiose Haus der Kunst being filled with grandiose art, a new, revolutionary art by truly great German artists who would take the place of the “dilettantes” and “canvas smearers”[30] of the avant-garde. Thus we find Hitler at the opening of the Haus der Kunst in an agitated mental condition. Rather than delivering an uplifting, euphoric speech, he incited the crowd with a hateful tirade against the modern and the Jews as corrupters of the German spirit: “From now on … of that you can be certain … all those … cliques of chatterers, dilettantes and art forgers will be picked up and liquidated. For all we care, those pre-historics can return to their ancestors and there apply their primitive international scratchings.[…]”[31] According to Paul Ortwin Rave, who was a curator at the Berlin National Gallery and present at the ceremony, Hitler’s manner of speech was so shrill, his face so distorted with apparent deeply felt hatred, that people close to him were concerned about his mental health. “He was spitting out his words and drumming with his fists, literally foaming at the mouth,” recounted the eye witness.[32] It appears that Hitler’s attack on Jews as well as modern art was never more caustic than at the opening of the Great German Art Exhibition in 1937.Hitler’s hateful speech against modern art was the overture to the opening of the “Degenerate Art” show the following day, July 19, 1937. Trying to outdo his Führer, Professor Ziegler succeeded in invoking equally evil forces in his speech at the opening of the exhibition.[33] The malicious slander of those who promoted a progressive visual culture in Germany was repeated over and over in printed and verbal slogans surrounding art during the Third Reich.

The “Degenerate Art” Exhibition (back to top) The National Socialist rhetoric did not spring from a vacuum. The hateful tirades against Bolsheviks, Jews and other “alien elements” were not an isolated aberration in an otherwise uninterrupted cultural history of civility and humanity. Much of the sentiments expressed by the National Socialists had a long history. These verbal outbursts of hatred stood in a continuum, although an intensely fanatic one, of long-held ideas, originating in the 19th century.Cultural degeneration was a subject discussed by a range of Kulturkritiker beginning in the late 19th century. There was in particular the very popular pseudo-scientific treatise by Max Nordau, titled “Degeneration,” in which he railed against all modern art and literature as cause for mental and moral decline.[34]. This book, first published in 1893, was of decisive influence on the National Socialist rhetoric and was particularly adopted by Hitler in his book “Mein Kampf,” published in 1923, in which he singled out Dadaism as “the degenerate excess of insane and depraved humans”.[35] The idea of the artist as one “with highly refined, wilting, sickly nerves,” was also commonplace among intellectuals such as the vanguard critic Hermann Bahr, the author Thomas Mann, and the painters Franz Marc and Emil Nolde. Nietzsche’s call for renewal in the arts preceded the frighteningly xenophobic cacophony of Nordau and others.[36]According to Peter Paret, the general anxiety in Germany about the future of moral, physical and intellectual strength fostered the myth about a culturally distinctive and racially pure Volk. While many of the artists at the end of the 19th century perceived the alien elements infiltrating German art as those of the French avant-garde,[37] radical cultural critics like Phillip Stauff blamed destructive influences on the purity of German culture on the greed of Jews, such as the prominent art dealer Paul Cassirer and the Impressionist artist Max Liebermann. [38] While Langbehn’s blood-and-soil ideology encouraged artists to work from their roots, to stay away from French decadence, and to become authentic representatives of their Stamm, conservative factions among the cultural elite pointed to “the Jew” as a “dangerous enemy that had penetrated the citadel of German culture, which he could now corrupt and destroy from within.”[39]Given this history of cultural xenophobia and the popularity of the aforementioned books, it is very likely that the vocabulary used by the National Socialists was a familiar one not only among the intellectual elite, but the bourgeoisie as well. National Socialist propaganda made sure that the discourse surrounding the notion of the “unhealthy” in a people became a common concept among the general populace as well and could then be easily directed at intellectuals, artists, Jews, Communists and all opponents to the Reich’s philosophy. And, very soon after the rise of Hitler, the hatred at all that was “other” extended from a purge of the museums to the removal from society of all “outsiders”; impurities removed from a perceived culturally and racially pure Volk.As mentioned earlier, the chaos that preceded the Great German Art Exhibition can be contrasted with the swift assembly of prohibited “degenerate” art from the German state museums. On the same day that he received Hitler’s approval for the “degenerate” art show, June 30, 1937, Goebbels signed a decree as president of the Reich Chamber for the Visual Arts and sent it to 101 museums in Germany. It was to give access to all museum holdings to Professor Ziegler and his committee in order to examine and secure works of German “decadence” from 1910 onward for a show to be held in conjunction with the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung. Within a period of less than two weeks, Ziegler’s committee confiscated 5,238 works of art.[40] During their zealous sweep through the museums, the newly appointed “art connoisseurs” confiscated works by international “degenerate” artists such as Picasso, Mondrian and the French Post-Impressionists, thus overextending the authority given to them by Goebbels. Most of the works by non-German modernist artists were ultimately not shown in the “Degenerate Art” exhibitions, but instead sold to the highest bidder at the Fischer auction in Lucerne, Switzerland, in June and August of 1939.The way that the commission proceeded in securing the works deemed ‘degenerate’ was simple. Lists had been compiled of all the artists mentioned in avant-garde periodicals, such as Das Kunstblatt, Die Aktion, Der Sturm. Any books written by liberal museum directors were scrutinized for names. A comprehensive guide to identifying the avant-garde was Carl Einstein’s richly illustrated volume Die Kunst im 20. Jahrhundert, published in 1926. It became a quick source for the uninitiated “art specialist” to locate defamed works. Most importantly, though not emphasized in most accounts of these confiscation raids, but foregrounded in Die ‘Kunststadt’ München, is Wolfgang Willrich.[41] According to Paul Rave, who was at that time an assistant to Hanfstaengel of the National Galerie in Berlin, the selection of works for the “Degenerate Art” exhibition followed a list comprised by Willrich, a hateful art critic and, like Hitler, a mediocre artist. His book Säuberung des Kunsttempels, was published in the spring of 1937. The arrangement of collages and the inclusion of propaganda slogans and excerpts from Hitler’s speeches reproduced in Willrich’s book would become a blueprint for the “Degenerate Art” exhibition itself. Unfortunately, although photographic records of the installation had been made, no catalogue was created for the first “Degenerate Art” exhibition – there simply was not time.[42] Therefore, much of our impression of the inventory is based on the catalogue produced for the show in Berlin, which followed four months later.The Munich show “Degenerate Art” coincided with the “Great German Art Exhibition” of July 1937. Physically, the two exhibitions were almost across the street from one another, the official German art in the newly erected Haus der Deutschen Kunst in the Prinzregenten Strasse, and the other in a building occupied by the Institute of Archeology in the Hofgarten. Crammed into dark, dank rooms that had to be emptied of a collection of dusty plaster casts, were 650 paintings, sculptures and prints by 112 artists. [43] The art had been confiscated, transported from various cities in Germany, and installed in less than two weeks. But it was not lack of time that caused this haphazard assembly of such chaotic dimension! The pompous show of “the good German art” in the Haus der Kunst had little more than one month for the new jury to select and to rehang and reposition the paintings and sculptures. Yet, where Hitler’s pride in his grandiose vision was at stake in one show, the disarray of works carelessly nailed to the wall in the other was to showcase his contempt. What contrast between the pristine shining halls of marble flooded with light, where officious comments would complement the echo of the clicking boots, and the shuffling of feet and the stunned silence in the tight tunnels of the storage rooms for plaster heads![44]visitors at the degenerate art exhbitionSome of the narrow rooms contained works in thematic groupings, others contained random collections of all subject matter, medium and style. All works were installed in such a way as to promote disregard of the accomplishments by the masters of modern art. Many of the paintings had been taken out of their frames, and were often partly covered up by Nazi propaganda slogans or derogatory slanderous remarks about the intent of the artist. Graffiti-like large-scale scribbles on the walls connoted the degeneracy and lunacy of the artists. The purposely added acquisition price for the works and the name of the museum director was to establish further proof of the conspiracy of the artistic elite with “alien elements” such as Jews and Bolsheviks.

The originators of the “Degenerate Art” show were probably expecting violent reactions from the viewers. It did not happen, according to the few eyewitness accounts presently published, and if there were some derogatory remarks, they were relatively discreet.[45]  Did anyone dare to verbally challenge the “official opinion”? It would be interesting to know whether many of the visitors to the “Degenerate Art” show also visited the Haus der Kunst, and how they incorporated emotionally and intellectually one into the other. Being pushed and shoved through the narrow rooms surrounded by the surreal visual spectacle of malicious slogans and fantastic forms and colors would at least have created a sense of claustrophobia in visitors. By contrast, how would a leisurely walk through the spacious halls of the Haus der Kunst surrounded by the sterile familiar genres have affected average viewers? There is an essay in Schuster’s “Kunststadt München” by an art student who had visited both shows. His reaction to the “accepted” art was boredom and embarrassment and a sense of wonder when he encountered the artists that he only knew from art books at this home.[46] The show of the “degenerate” art ran in Munich from July 17, 1937 to November 30, 1937 and had the highest number of attendance ever of any modern art show – 2,009,899, an average of 20,000 people per day. Over 3,000,000 visitors in total were counted after the long run in other cities in the Reich, including Berlin, Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Weimar, Halle, Vienna and Salzburg.[47] The touring of the exhibition ended in April of 1941. In Munich alone it attracted twice as many visitors as the official art show at the Haus der Kunst in the summer of 1937.

As the “Degenerate Art” exhibition traveled on to other cities, the content changed. This was only partially due to the loot from the second raid on German state museums, between August and October 1937, which further boosted the inventory of the “degenerate” art. As items were removed or simply broke during the transport from one town to the next – like the large sculpture “The Kneeling Woman” by Lehmbruck – others replaced them. Interesting is the removal of Franz Marc’s gigantic “Tower of Blue Horses” shortly after the opening in Munich upon the insistence of veteran officers from WWI. Franz Marc had been a highly decorated officer who died in that war. After its removal from the “Degenerate Art” show, the painting was never seen again. Emil Nolde’s religious paintings were particularly defaced by malicious slogans. This is curious because he was one of the earliest members of the National Socialist party and an open racial supremacist; but his style fit the category of “degenerate art.” A few artists are testimony to the ongoing process of a developing National Socialist style and the abandonment by artists of their aesthetic principles. The sculptor Georg Kolbe was represented with his earlier work in the “Degenerate Art” show. As he altered his style to conform to the Third Reich’s aesthetic demands, his idealized men and women in heroic poses gained entrance into the annual shows at the Haus der Kunst. Although there were only five Jewish artists represented among the 101 artists, the defamation of Jews as degenerate profiteers of Germany’s cultural decline was present throughout the exhibition in banners across paintings and graffiti on the walls.

From the dark, crowded corridors of the Archeological Institute in the Hofgarten very few works made it to the elegant Grand Hotel National in Lucerne, Switzerland, where on June 30, 1939 the jewels among Germany’s art theft were auctioned off. Only 125 international masterworks confiscated by the Ziegler commission were put up for sale to private purchasers and art dealers from all parts of the world. The disposal of profitable works, previously owned by German museums and private collections, proceeded in an orderly fashion in neutral Switzerland.[48] The fate of most other confiscated paintings is a story of greed and hate, cold-blooded profiteering and many pathetic and passionate attempts to save a family heirloom or to protect a cultural treasure. If it were not for the fanatic tendency of minute record keeping by members of the bureaucratic National Socialist machinery, the random disposal of the confiscated objects could only be reconstructed through private memoirs.

Following the two principal raids on German museums and private collection, Franz Hofmann, the chairman of the confiscation committee, declared in March 1938 that the museums were now “purified”. In May 1938 Goebbels created a new commission calling “for the disposal of confiscated works of the degenerate art.”[49] Hitler visited the depot himself, and in June of that year decreed a law that would free the government from all compensation claims for the “safeguarded” works.[50] During the previous fall, the works of art that were not “on tour” had been collected in warehouses in the Köpenicker Strasse in Berlin. Surviving records indicate that there were a total of 12,890 inventoried paintings, sculptures, water colors and prints. Of these an unknown number was subsequently taken to Schloss Niederschönhausen outside of Berlin to be made available to international buyers.[51] The number of works held at both depots decreased rapidly, however, as dealers paid as little as $20.00 for a modern master or as private citizens attempting to safeguard German modern art rushed to offer Nazi approved art in exchange for art deemed “degenerate.”[52] There was only a small window of opportunity to acquire works collected in these two depots. In December 1938 Goebbels and Hans Hoffmann, the photographer and unofficial artistic advisor of Hitler, began a campaign to burn all works remaining in the Köpenicker Strasse depot. By the time a secret bonfire was set to destroy that which was deemed worthless, the number of objects had shrunk to 1,004 paintings and sculptures and 3,825 drawings, water colors and graphics.[53] Before these works went up in flames on March 20, 1939, they were, of course, inventoried.

While very few of the objects displayed in the “Degenerate Art” shows were sold through proper channels – if we consider the auctions in Switzerland to be proper – all of the sculptures and paintings exhibited in the annual Great German Art Exhibition were offered and sold within the framework of an art market. After Hitler had abandoned his lofty idea of a permanent collection of art for the people and the state, the “temple of art” merely carried on the tradition of the old Münchner Glaspalast, the exhibition and sale of art for the general populace. It thus reflected and continued the standard practice in provincial art centers. As Hinz observed in his book Art in the Third Reich, “sales opportunities were excellent.”[54] On the average, 800 to 1,000 objects shown in the Haus der Kunst were sold each year. At that rate, it is doubtful that the 884 pieces shown in the inaugural exhibition remained in the “temple” for very long. A large proportion of the paintings and sculptures were purchased for public buildings, government offices and private homes for government officials, according to Hinz. I conclude from this, that most of the 700 objects labeled National Socialist art, that are now deposited in the “Depot for Art between 1930 and 1945” in Berlin were secured from such public and official buildings by the Allied powers after the war. This is a small number of all the works created for the Reich, and, aside from the likelihood that a large amount was destroyed during the war, there must still be many objects in circulation that carry the face of the National Socialist ideology. A blockbuster show, titled “One Century of Art in Germany,” took place in Berlin in September 1999. One room of the show was dedicated to Germany in the Third Reich. A Volkswagen car shared the space with Adolf Ziegler’s banal nudes and Arno Breker’s monumental, soulless “Prometheus”.

Conclusion (back to top) Schuster argues that the year of German art in Munich was a coordinated effort at “Gleichschaltung,” beginning with the reconstruction of the facades on all buildings leading to the “temple of art”.[55]  Although the “Degenerate Art” show and the Great German Art Exhibition were the pivotal events of that year, they were part of a project to showcase German culture, and Volk cultural treasures in particular for the people of Munich and the many visitors who traditionally flocked to that Southern German cultural center during the summer and fall months. There were exhibitions of Bavarian arts and crafts in the Bavarian National Museum, proclaiming folk-art as a source of cultural strength. Musical events from classical concerts and theater performances to Volksmusik at open plazas all around the city accompanied public dances and musical parades.[56] Incorporating cultural traditions from Bavaria, Hitler aimed to create a common German cultural identity – a Volk – to celebrate the opening of his temple. This paper was published on the UCSB Hist 133c website. However, Hitler may have misjudged both the charm and limitations of regional culture when trying to forge a bold new German art. He also misjudged the consequences of stooping to ridicule German avant-garde in a desperate effort to deflect attention from the Reich’s failure to endow the new temple of art with any treasure – a ‘temple’ which was mocked by the Munich art community as the “Palazzo Kitschi.”[57] Hitler acknowledged the misjudgment one year later in 1938 at the second Great German Art Exhibition, when he rationalized:

“In the case of many pictures it was obvious that the artist had confused the two exhibitions, the 1937 exhibition of ‘German’ art and the concurrent one of ‘degenerate art.’ I therefore decided to make a clean break and to set one task and one task only for our new German art. I would force it to hold to the direction the National Socialist revolution had marked out for our new national existence. […] It is as difficult to know now as it has always been whether we have artistic geniuses of lasting stature working among us. […] But we do know that we have created the conditions under which great genius can flourish. […] I thought it essential that past year to give the decent, honest artist of average talent a chance.”[58]

Although Hitler was late to recognize that trying to eradicate avant-garde art was not sufficient to realize his ideal of a new German art, he never succeeded in replacing the art he condemned.

Works Cited (back to top)

Artinger, Kai, Arn Strohmayer, Ferdinand Krogmann. Land, Licht und Mythos: Die Worpsweder Kunst unter Nationalsozialismus. Weimar: VDG, 2000.

Barron, Stephanie. Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany. Los Angeles, County Museum of Art. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.

Gordon, Donald E. Expressionism: Art and Idea. Providence, R.I.: Federated Lithographers-Printers, Inc., 1987.

Hinz, Berthold. Art in the Third Reich. New York: Pantheon Books, 1979.

Langbehn, Julius. Rembrandt als Erzieher. Leipzig: C.L. Hirschfeld, 1890.

Müller, Helmut M. et al. Deutsche Geschichte in Schlaglichtern. Mannheim, Leipzig, Wien: Meyers Lexikonverlag, 1996.

Nicholas, Lynn H. The Rape of Europe. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Paret, Peter. German Encounters With Modernism, 1840-1945. Cambr.: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Petropoulos, Jonathan. Art as Politics in the Third Reich. Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Petropoulos, Jonathan. The Faustian Bargain: The Artworld in Nazi Germany. New York Oxford University Press, 2000.

Rave, Paul Ortwin. Kunstdiktatur im Dritten Reich. Ed. Uwe M. Schneede. Berlin: Argon Verlag, GmbH. n/d.

Roh, Franz. ‘Entartete’ Kunst: Kunstbarbarei im Dritten Reich. Hannover: Fackelträger Verlag, 1962.

Schuster, Peter-Klaus. Die ‘Kunststadt’ München 1937. Nationalsozialismus und ‘Entartete Kunst’. München: Prestel Verlag, 1987.

Willrich, Wolfgang. Säuberung des Kunsttempels. Eine kunstpolitische Kampfschrift zur Gesundung deutscher Kunst im Geiste nordischer Art. München: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag, 1937.

Zuschlag, Christoph. “Educational Exhibitions”, in: Barron, Stephanie. Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazie Germany. Los Angeles, County Museum of Art. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.

Notes (back to top)

[1] Schuster, p. 84.

[2] Barron, p. 17; see also Hinz, p. 163.

[3] Hinz, p. 9.

[4] Schuster, p. 44.

[5] Petropoulos, Art Politics, p. 58 and Rohe, p. 99.

[6] Although there were earlier unofficial inspections of state museums, especially under such zealots as the art critic Wolfgang Willrich, no steps to remove the now outlawed art had been taken yet.

[7] Petropoulos, Art Politics, pps. 20-21.

[8] Petropoulos, Art Politics, p. 20.

[9] see Artinger, et al.

[10] Petropoulos, Art Politics, pps. 21-28.

[11] Müller, p. 271.

[12] Petropoulos, Art Politics, pps. 32-33.

[13] Zuschlag, in: Barron, pps. 40-50.

[14] Schuster, pps. 85-86.

[15] Petropoulos, p. 48.

[16] Roh, p. 28.

[17] Schuster, p. 13.

[18] ibid., p. 14.

[19] Rave, p. 97.

[20] ibid., p. 99.

[21] Schuster, p. 42.

[22] Petropoulos, Art Politics, p. 59.

[23] Schuster, pps. 40-41.

[24] ibid., p. 41.

[25] ibid., p. 45.

[26] A total of eight Great German Art Exhibitions were staged between 1937 and 1944. Hinz, pps 17-19.

[27] Petropoulos, “Faustian Bargain”, p. 154.

[28] See Artinger,

[29] Hinz, p. 11- 17.

[30] Hitler’s speech at the opening of the Haus der Kunst; ibid., p. 10.

[31] Rave, p. 101.

[32] Rave, p. 101.

[33] Ziegler’s speech in its entirety is reprinted in Schuster, pps. 217-218.

[34] Ironically, the author, a medical doctor was the son of a Jewish rabbi. Gordon, p. 9-11.

[35] Schuster, p. 27.

[36] Gordon, pps. 9-11.

[37] These sentiments were particularly influenced by Langbehn’s book “Rembrandt als Erzieher”, published in 1890.

[38] Paret, p. 60.

[39] ibid., p. 62.

[40] The “entartete Kunst” Aktion continued until the end of October, 1937. A second more ruthless raid on museums, this time also including private collections that were loaned to the museums, began on August 27, 1937. In these two raids a total of roughly 17,000 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper were taken. Schuster, p. 50.

[41] Schuster, p. 95-97.

[42] Barron, p. 22.

[43] These numbers vary from book to book and range anywhere from 650 to 750. The reason for this is that there was no catalogue available at the beginning of the show, and the show changed as it moved on.

[44] There are very few eyewitness reports published in books about this exhibition. Those few that recorded by memory their experience vary in their recollection of the mood in the 1937 “Degenerate Art” exhibition. One could deduce, however, from what is recalled, that people moved through the exhibition rather more quiet than loud and that many of them did seem stunned by what they saw.

[45] Barron, p. 50

[46] Schuster, pps. 311-315.

[47] Barron, p. 20.

[48] For insight into the controversy surrounding this and other auctions in Switzerland which many international dealers and private collectors attended while others purposely stayed away, see Lynn H. Nicholas, The Rape of Europe and Stephanie Barron, Degenerate Art.

[49] Petropoulos, Art Politics, p. 23.

[50] Nicholas, p. 23.

[51] Petropoulos, Art Politics, p. 83.

[52] A Beckmann landscape was bought by a dealer for $20.00. A number of modern German paintings were rescued by Emanuel and Sofie Fohn through an exchange. They safeguarded the works in Italy and returned them to the Städtische Museum in München after the war. Nicholas, pps. 24-25.

[53] Petropoulos, pps. 76-83.

[54] Hinz, p. 11.

[55] Even art nouveau facades were pulverized; Schuster, p. 20.

[56] Schuster, pps. 35-38.

[57] Rave, p.98.

[58] Citation from Hitler’s speech at the opening of the second Great German Art Exhibition, 1938; in: Hinz, p. 10.

paper completed June 2004; converted and uploaded on 3/30/05 by H. Marcuse, update 8/24/05
back to top, to Hist 133c04 paper index page, to Hist 133C homepage , H. Marcuse Courses page, homepage


Guide to the “Degenerate Art” Exhibition (1937)On July 19, 1937, the “Degenerate Art” exhibition opened in the Hofgarten arcades of Munich’s Residenz. It included 650 works of art confiscated from 32 German museums. For the National Socialists, the term “degenerate” applied to any type of art that was incompatible with their ideology or propaganda. Whole movements were labeled as such, including Expressionism, Impressionism, Dada, New Objectivity, Surrealism, Cubism, and Fauvism, among others. Many of Germany’s most talented and innovative artists suffered official defamation: for example, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Ernst, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Pechstein, Paul Klee, and Ernst Barlach. Avant-garde artists and museum directors who purchased or exhibited modern art had already been barred from professional activity as early as 1933. With this exhibition, the visual arts were forced into complete submission to censorship and National Socialist “coordination” [Gleichschaltung]. Initiated by Minster of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels and President of the Reich Chamber of the Visual Arts Adolf Ziegler (1892-1959), the exhibition travelled to twelve other cities from 1937 to 1941. In all, the show drew more than 3 million visitors. The exhibition sought to demonstrate the “degeneration” of artworks by placing them alongside drawings done by the mentally retarded and photographs of the physically handicapped. These comparisons aimed to highlight the “diseased,” “Jewish-Bolshevist,” and inferior character of these artworks and to warn of an impending “cultural decline.” As an exercise in contrast, the opposite – good, “healthy,” “German” art – could be seen in the “Great German Art Exhibition,” on view only a few meters away.
print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 1
This exhibition has been assembled by the Reich Propaganda Directorate, Culture Office. It will be shown in the larges cities of all regions. [ . . . ]What the “Degenerate Art” exhibition means to do:

It means to give, at the outset of a new age for the German people, a firsthand survey of the gruesome last chapter of those decades of cultural decadence that preceded the great change.

It means to appeal to the sounds judgment of the people and thus to put an end to the drivel and claptrap of all those literary cliques and hangers-on, many of whom would still try to deny that we ever had such a thing as artistic degeneracy.

It makes to make it clear that this degeneracy in art was something more than the sort of short-lived foolishness, idiocy, and rash experimentation that might have spent itself and died even without the National Socialist revolution.

It means to show that this was no “necessary ferment” but a deliberate and calculated onslaught upon the very essence and survival of art itself.

It means to expose the common roots of political anarchy and cultural anarchy and to unmask degenerate art as art-Bolshevism in every sense of the term.

It means to reveal the philosophical, political, racial, and moral goals and purposes pursued by those who promoted subversion.

It means to show, too, how these symptoms of degeneracy spread from the deliberate troublemakers to infect those more or less unwitting acolytes who, in spite of previous – and in some cases also subsequentt—evidence of artistic talent, were so lacking in scruple, character, or common sense as to join in the general Jewish and Bolshevik furor.

It means to reveal in this way the true peril of a trend that, steered by a few Jewish and openly Bolshevik ringleaders, could success in enlisting such individuals to work toward Bolshevik anarchy in cultural politics when those same individuals might well have indignantly denied any affiliation with Bolshevism in party politics.

It means to prove above all that none of the men who were in any way involved in the degeneracy of art can now turn around and talk about “harmless follies of youth.”

From all this emerges, finally, what the “Degenerate Art” exhibition does not mean to do.

It does not mean to assert that all the names that are emblazoned on the botched efforts shown here also appeared in the membership lists of the Communist party. As no such assertion is made, no refutation is called for.

It does not mean to deny that one or another of those shown here has at some time – before or since – “achieved something different.” It is not the business of this exhibition, however, to gloss over the fact that in the years of the major Bolshevik-Jewish onslaught upon German art such men stood on the side of subversion.

It does not mean to prevent those artists shown who are of German blood – and who have not followed their former Jewish friends abroad – from now honestly striving and fighting for the basis of a new and healthy creativity. It does and must mean to prevent, however, the jabbering cliques from that murky part from foisting any such men on the new state and on its forward-looking people as “the natural standard-bearers of an art of the Third Reich.”

Source of English translation: Stephanie Barron, “Degenerate Art”: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991, pp. 360, 362. Reprinted here courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, © 2006 Museum Associates/LACMA, Translation © David Britt.

Source of original German text: Entartete Kunst Ausstellungsführer. Berlin: Verlag für Kultur- und Wirtschaftswerbung, 1937, pp. 2, 4; reprinted in Stephanie Barron, “Degenerate Art”: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991, pp. 360, 362.


Vincent Johnson: The October Paintings

October Painting 1 and 2, Los Angeles, California by Vincent Johnson

The October Painting 1 and 2, Los Angeles, California by Vincent Johnson

The October Paintings - numbers 3 and 4

The October Paintings – numbers 3 and 4 – The October Paintings (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson) – the paintings are at the underpainting stage. They will be allowed to dry in my studio and then a layer of white glaze will be added. That will dry. Then I will work on each work, layer by layer, allowing each layer to dry, or be worked or added to as I desire. Our car Roxy is in the background, her back arched as she defies a mushroom to move.

October Paintings 3 and 4 - three of three

The October Paintings (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson) – paintings 3 and 4. Taking advantage of the fabulous weather in LA.

October Paintings 3 and 4 - two of three

The October Paintings – paintings 1 and 2 (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson) – with our cat Roxy playing in the back yard.

October Paintings 5 and 6, underpainted on October 31, 2013. Van Nuys, CA

October Paintings 5 and 6, underpainting – layer one – October 31, 2013. Van Nuys, CA

October Paintings 5 and 6.on 11.01.13 no .3 October Paintings 5 and 6.on 11.01.13

The October Paintings, 2013, under painting layers, Los Angeles, California, by Vincent Johnson

The October Paintings, 2013, paintings one and two, under painting layers, Los Angeles, California, by Vincent Johnson

The October Paintings (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson)

The October Paintings – paintings one and two (a new paintings project by Los Angeles based artist Vincent Johnson)

The October Paintings are comprised of nine 4×4 foot oil on canvas paintings. These are the largest canvases I’ve worked on since my return to painting after two decades of working with photography. I was trained as a representational painter at Pratt Institute and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My graduate degree is in critical theory and painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. The works are a continuation of my exploration of the history of art materials, combined with using the layering techniques of representation to create singular new abstractions. This is my first time working on several large-scale canvases at once. What I’ve noticed over the years is that every significant work I’ve made eventually finds its way into the world, often through unanticipated opportunity.  The works are visceral, visually rich, emotively engaging. They follow the six large-scale paintings in the COSMOS SUITE that is also ongoing and was started in 2012, and the NINE GRAYSCALE PAINTINGS in LOS ANGELES that I completed in 2011. In my work I have always sought to reach for and produce imagery that lends itself to a serious consideration of the ideas that come to the mind when approaching the image. For me these works seek to substantiate themselves in the world, to be both evocative and provocative, beautiful and remarkable in both concept and realization. As these works are fully developed I will continue to record the journey am taken on with them, until they are complete.

OCTOBER PAINTING - Scumble glazing, second phase of the paintings.

OCTOBER PAINTING – Scumble glazing, second phase of the paintings.

October Paintings – scumble glazed and drying in studio.

During the scumble glazing layer of the painting, where I knock down the underpainting colors so that the next layers can deliver a fabulous punch, I thought about the magnificient, enormous paintings I saw this summer at the Menil Collection in Houston, by Cy Twombly and Mark Rothko. The high seriousness of Rothko’s chapel paintings was amazing. Yet on that day it would be my discovery of the excellence of Cy Twombly as a painter of the primordial and playful sublime that captivated my attention in his purpose built stand alone large gallery space that showcased his work far beyond the circular swirls I know but care nothing for at all. It seems that when Twombly switched to specific subject matter – whether it be abstract landscape paintings, where he had simply marvelous deep rich green works, or his overall giant abstractions, filled with playful and powerful singular and exciting moments, both satisfied in wonderful ways. I was fortunate to make two trips to Houston this summer. The Late Byzantine to Today was a marvel to behold; I also had no idea that the Menil is a world class repository of Surrealist art. I was also privileged to see the James Turrell retrospective at the MFA Houston, which itself will be expanding soon with a major new building devoted to modern and contemporary art. The Menil Collection itself will be adding seven new individual artist showcase galleries, which combined with their traveling shows will make Houston as important a center for seeing art as anywhere in the US outside of New York. I am looking at the nine 4×4 foot October paintings in my studio. Its the largest body of work I have ever produced as a painter. I can see so many possibilities in this new direction. It gives me reason to continue to push to get my work into the world, despite all of the difficulties I have experienced. Painting makes me see beyond my own being.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, CA

Vincent Johnson: CV

Vincent Johnson received his MFA in Fine Art Painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1986. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was selected for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 for the Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America and Art Slant, and in over fifty differen publications in total. His photographic works were shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. He has shown recently at Soho House (curated by ForYourArt, Los Angeles) and at Palihouse (curated by Los Angeles Nomadic Division), West Hollywood, and most recently in Photography 2013 at Another Year in LA gallery, West Hollywood. Johnson’s work has appeared in numerous venues, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (Freestyle (2001, The Philosophy of Time Travel, 2007, and The Bearden Project, 2011-2012), PS1 Museum, SK Stiftung, Cologne; Santa Monica Museum of Art, LAXART, Las Cienegas Projects; Boston University Art Museum; Kellogg Museum, Cal Poly Pomona; Adamski gallery of Contemporary Art, Aachen; Lemonsky Projects, Miami. His work has been published in over a dozen exhibition catalogs. He is currently working on a series of self published photography books that will focus on the U.S. cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland, Ohio, Miami, Florida and New Orleans. Johnson is also creating abstract paintings for his Cosmos Suite, that explores the practice of painting with the knowledge of historical painting practices. He is using the techniques of representation to create remarkable works of abstract art. At Beacon Arts Center, Los Angeles, he recently exhibited an entire suite of grayscale paintings. In the Spring of 2013, he exhibited a series of edgy photographic works at Another Year in LA gallery, West Hollywood, California. His work will be exhibited in the inaugural Open Project exhibition at the Palace of the Inquisition, Evora, Portugal, opening July 15, 2013.

Vincent Johnson lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos Suite 2012-2013


This is Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles.

Here are three new paintings are added to my Cosmos Suite of paintings 2.24.2013. These are the 7th, 8th and 9th paintings created in the Cosmos Suite. They are also the 4th, 5th and 6th large scale paintings in this body of work.

These Cosmos Suite paintings are created using various experiments in media and paint application. Johnson has done substantial research into the area of the history of painting materials and there use, and employs this knowledge in the production of his work.

There are now a total of nine paintings in the Cosmos Suite. Six of the nine paintings are thirty by forty inches in size. Three of the paintings – the originals in the suite, are twenty by twenty four inches in size. Each painting takes about a month to create as there is a three week drying time between the first and second layers of the painting. As the suite grows there will be additional sizes including larger works.


Cosmos Suite: A Meeting Between Two Figures in Space

30×40 inches, oil on canvas by Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles (2013)

Poured Liquin in center of painting, added stripes of pure paint color to canvas, mixed with paint rags, dabbed till thick paint areas are leveled out.

Large areas of vertical yellow in painting. Layered canvas in thick paint in certain areas. Reminds me of seeing Gerhard Richter’s painting retrospective in London in the fall of 2011.


Cosmos Suite: State and Grace

30×40 inches, oil on canvas by Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles

Used sponges on face of painting. Layered canvas in thick paint.

Poured Liquin in center of painting, added stripes of pure paint color to canvas, mixed with paint rags, dabbed till thick paint areas are leveled out.
Reminds me of Florida’s mysterious beauty

Shape is of Florida in part

with  matisse.artcat

Cosmos Suite: State and Grace – final – complete 2.25.2013

30×40 inches, oil on canvas by Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles (2013)


Cosmos Suite: State and Grace – final – complete 2.25.2013

30×40 inches, oil on canvas by Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles (2013)


 Cosmos Suite: Astral Melodies
30×40 inches, oil on canvas by Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles (2013)

used sponges on side and surface of the painting. used large brushwork. Layered canvas in paint.

Poured Liquin in between stripes of pure paint color to canvas, mixed with paint rags, dabbed till thick paint areas are leveled out. Started out with thick brush in corner to mix, abandoned this quickly.

Sensing jazz standards here – floating fields of opulent pure romantic color

Vincent Johnson received his MFA in Fine Art Painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was selected for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 for the Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles. His 2010 photo project – California Toilet, Filthy Light Switch, is in exhibition at Another Year in LA gallery in West Hollywood through early March 2013. His work has appeared in several venues, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (Freestyle (2001, The Philosophy of Time Travel, 2007, and The Bearden Project, 2011-2012), PS1 Museum, Queens, NY, SK Stiftung, Cologne, Germany, Santa Monica Museum of Art, LAXART, Las Cienegas Projects, Boston University Art Museum, Kellogg Museum, Cal Poly Pomona.
Below are some of the other paintings I have completed since returning to painting in the summer of 2011.
Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos suite (2012)

Golden Dream (2012), part of the Cosmos Suite of paintings

California Toilet, Filthy Light Switch (2010) by Vincent Johnson. Archival Epson print (Private Collection, Miami, Florida). I provided this image as I realized its clear similarity to Golden Dream, which I completed a week ago in my studio in Los Angeles.

Two at Night (2012) from the Cosmos suite of paintings, Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches

Cosmos. Oil on canvas  2012 by Vincent Johnson

Cosmos Red Yellow Green. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

Green God. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson

This new painting series is part of my ongoing exploration of painting materials and techniques from the history of painting. The works combine knowledge of painting practices of both abstract and representation paintings. The works concern themselves purely with the visual power that paintings can do through the manipulation of paint. Some of the underpaintings are allowed to dry for months; some of those are built dark to light, others light to dark. None are made in a single setting. Most are worked and reworked using studio materials. Each new series takes a different approach to the painted surface from how the paint is applied, to varying the painting mediums. This suite concerns itself with the layering of paint by building up the surface and altering and reworking the wet paint with studio tools.

Two larger paintings will be completed and photographed on Sunday, July 15, 2012 and posted here.

Vincent Johnson, Grayscale painting: The Storm (2012). Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches, created in studio in Los Angeles, California

Vincent Johnson, Grayscale painting, Snow White/White Snow (2012). Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches, created in studio in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson, Nine Grayscale Paintings, Beacon Arts Center, Los Angeles, (2001). Oil on canvas. Each panel is 20×24 inches.
photograph of silver paint on my hands in studio, Los Angeles, during the creation of Nine Grayscale paintings.
Vincent Johnson – in Los Angeles studio working on Nine Grayscale Paintings, 2011

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles, California


One thought on “Degenerate Art Exhibition/Entartete Kunst Munich 1937 – Exhibition Images/Texts

  1. Pingback: URL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: