The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany

By Jonathan Petropoulos | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1
Art Museum Directors

The history of art museum directors in Germany is an illustrious one, as royal collections were transformed into public ones in the nineteenth and early twentieth century under the guidance of a number of talented and committed experts. Indeed, it has often been rendered as a kind of hagiography: a succession of great men, from Wilhelm von Bode ( 1845-1929) and Alfred Lichtwark ( 1852-1914) to Hugo Tschudi ( 1851-1911) and Ludwig Justi ( 1876 1957). 1 These complimentary portrayals are not entirely unjustified: museum directors often combined public service with stellar scholarship. But this history cannot be written as a story of uninterrupted progress and triumph. Because these individuals oversaw significant portions of Germany's cultural patrimony and occupied such highly visible positions, they were subject to extreme political pressures. Scholars including Peter Paret, Christopher With, and Robin Lenman have documented the tribulations and sometimes compromised behavior of museum officials during the Wilhelmine period. 2

The profession, of course, suffered even more intrusive political interference during the Third Reich. Those museum directors who

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