In what sense might it be said that Hitler’s discussion of art is not really about art at all?

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Adolf Hitler used the medium and presentation of art as an important part of his campaign to promote the Nazi ideal of the invincible Reich he was bringing into existence. Art provided another method of educating the general population regarding what was acceptable and what was not within the boundaries of proper German expression.

Eight Great German Art Exhibitions, beginning with one that opened in Munich on July 18, 1937, emphasized paintings of farmers and laborers, non-suggestive portraits of Aryan-appearing men and women, portraits of Nazi leaders, landscapes, and pictures of public buildings or works. Urban settings and any artwork that required individual interpretation and/or thought were missing. Hitler felt that artwork should be easy for the common person to understand, should present a portrayal of the ideal which all should strive to attain, and should promote eternal values. In other words, the exhibits presented carefully gathered propaganda promoting the Nazi values and mindset.

In contrast, the Degenerate Art Exhibit that opened on July 19, 1937 displayed examples of artwork that was labeled as unacceptable in the German Reich. Hitler had previously labeled modern art as “the monstrous offspring of insanity, impudence, ineptitude, and sheer degeneracy” and the display included books, paintings, prints, and sculpture selected to display the moral and mental shortcomings of modern art and the artists who produced it. The exhibit included quotes degrading modern art, quotes from modern artists taken out of context so as to present nonsensical or fearful, and comments on the incompetence of the artists and the depravity of the art. Again, the purpose of the exhibit was to publicize propaganda supporting the Nazi view of the world and the need for concerted efforts to purify the German culture of undesirable elements and influences.

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