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Art of Germany 03 - In the Shadow of Hitler

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Art of Germany

Part Three
In the Shadow of Hitler

 The Nazi regime banned modern art, which they condemned as degenerate art (from the German: entartete Kunst). According to Nazi ideology, modern art deviated from the prescribed norm of classical beauty. While the 1920s to 1940s are considered the heyday of modern art movements, there were conflicting nationalistic movements that resented abstract art, and Germany was no exception. Avant-garde German artists were now branded both enemies of the state and a threat to the German nation. Many went into exile, with relatively few returning after World War II. Dix was one who remained, being conscripted into the Volkssturm Home Guard militia; Pechstein kept his head down in rural Pomerania. Nolde also stayed, creating his "unpainted pictures" in secret after being forbidden to paint. Beckmann, Ernst, Grosz, Feininger and others went to America, Klee to Switzerland, where he died. Kirchner committed suicide.

In July, 1937, the Nazis mounted a polemical exhibition entitled Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art), in Munich; it subsequently travelled to eleven other cities in Germany and Austria. The show was intended as an official condemnation of modern art, and included over 650 paintings, sculptures, prints, and books from the collections of thirty two German museums. Expressionism, which had its origins in Germany, had the largest proportion of paintings represented. Simultaneously, and with much pageantry, the Nazis presented the Grosse deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German art exhibition) at the palatial Haus der deutschen Kunst (House of German Art). This exhibition displayed the work of officially approved artists such as Arno Breker and Adolf Wissel. At the end of four months Entartete Kunst had attracted over two million visitors, nearly three and a half times the number that visited the nearby Grosse deutsche Kunstausstellung.

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