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Degenerate art

Parent categories: art - censorship

The German phenomenon of degenerate art is a perfect example of the censor showing the way to interesting art. [Jan 2006]

Related: 1937 (exhibition in Munich) - degeneracy - degenerate music - modern art - modern art and perversion - Weimar culture

“Anybody who paints and sees a sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized.” --Adolf Hitler

Artists labeled degenerate: Otto Dix - Max Beckmann

Catalog to the 1937 degenerate art exhibition

Entartete Musik

Poster for exhibition "Entartete Musik", Duesseldorf, 1938 Entartete Musik


Munich, Germany, July 19, 1937: Adolf Hitler's Nazi party mounted an exhibition of confiscated art, "Entartete Kunst," meaning, "Degenerate Art." It showcased--and ridiculed--the work of contemporary artists such as Max Beckman, Emil Nolde, Otto Dix, Oskar Kokoschka, and over 200 others. The exhibition was intended to show the public the insanity, atrocity, and depravity of the modern art movement. Artists included in the show, many of whom are now recognized as modern masters, were depicted as demented, deranged, and subhuman.

On March 20th, 1939, the Degenerate Art Commission ordered over one thousand paintings and almost four thousand watercolors and drawings burned in the courtyard of a fire station in Berlin. Other works were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The final solution for artwork deemed unacceptable for public consumption was complete. --http://www.ovationtv.com/artszone/programs/degenerate [Mar 2004]


Degenerate art (from the German: entartete Kunst) was the official platform adopted by the Nazi regime for banning modern art in favor of Heroic Art. Based on Romantic realism, Heroic Art was meant to exemplify the German race in order to project a moral statement in a simpler, and more conventional style. Heroic Art symbolized racially pure art, free from distortion and corruption, while modern styles deviated from the prescribed norm of classical beauty. Racially pure artists produced racially pure art, and modern artists of an inferior racial strain produced works which were contorted. Nordau's theory, then, was used to defend claims of a cultural decline and racist theory. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degenerate_art [Feb 2005]

Degenerate Art (1993) - David Grubin

Degenerate Art (1993) - David Grubin [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The history of Hitler's war against modern art is sandwiched between black-and-white footage of the original Degenerate Art exhibition in 1937 and color footage of the 1991 reconstructed display in this concisely edited documentary. Clocking in at only 55 minutes, the film establishes the future dictator's failed attempt at a career in traditional painting and his contempt for the success of modern art. It tracks World War I's effect on both Germany's art community and its economy, paralleling Der Fuhrer's rise to power. Eyewitnesses and scholars describe the 1937 graffiti-strewn sideshow of a presentation meant to humiliate and thus destroy the artists. After the riveting stories of careers ruined, work destroyed in order to avoid concentration camps, and Hitler's seemingly contradictory fascination with nudes, viewers are left to mull on their own any connection with today's continued efforts to restrict art in the name of societal preservation. --Kimberly Heinrichs, Amazon.com

Degenerates and Perverts: The 1939 Herald Exhibition of Modern Art (2005) - Eileen Chanin

Degenerate Art (1991) - Stephanie Barron [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
The 1939 Herald Exhibition, which brought the Australian public face-to-face for the first time with the experimental art that had been developing in Europe during the early the 20th century, is described in this fascinating history. This account examines the astonishing collection of paintings, including nine Picassos and eight Van Goghs, that generated much controversy upon its opening and was described by the director of the National Gallery of Victoria as "the work of degenerates and perverts."

About the Author
Eileen Chanin is the author of Contemporary Australian Painting and Collecting Art: Masterpieces, Markets and Money. She is the director of Macquarie Galleries, which was established by the curator of the 1939 Herald exhibition.

See also: perversion - modern art and perversion

Degenerate Art (1991) - Stephanie Barron

Degenerate Art (1991) - Stephanie Barron [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

When the National Socialists came to power in Germany in the early 1930s, one of their most vigorous campaigns was against modernist and avant-garde art. Some 650 works by such renowned artists as Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee were removed from German museums and assembled in a traveling exhibition that the Nazis called "Degenerate Art." Fifty years later, the L.A. County Museum of Art reconstructed the notorious exhibition. This catalogue not only recreates the original show, but contains exhaustively researched essays on such topics as the Nazi ideals of beauty and resistance efforts by some German museums. Biographical information is available for each persecuted artist as well as rare photographs, and there is a room by room survey of and guide to the 1939 exhibition with a new English translation. Artistic expression is still under attack by such groups as the NEA, making this book strikingly relevant today.

From Library Journal
Recently seen in Los Angeles and traveling to Chicago, "Degenerate Art" is an exhibit attempting to re-present works still available from the 1937 exhibit of the same name mounted by the Nazis--an exhibit that redefined the aesthetics behind modern art. Though this book, which accompanies the exhibition, contains 150 pages of reproductions and biographies of the artists, it is not merely an exhibition catalog. It is a history book that attempts to put those works in the context of the original show and further place that exhibition in the context of the Nazis' overall attempts to control "German" attitudes by redefining cultural models. Documents (the floorplan of the exhibition, the original catalog with translation) and essays on events antecedent and tangential to the notorious show form a now particularly relevant history of government-valued artistic merit. An essential work on art and political manipulation for art and history collections. - Eric Bryant, "Li brary Journal" Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

See also: modern art and perversion

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