Art as Politics in the Third Reich

Art as Politics in the Third Reich

Art as Politics in the Third Reich

Art as Politics in the Third Reich

Synopsis

Explores the cultural aspirations of Nazi leaders by examining both their formulation of a national aesthetic policy and the content of their private collections.

Excerpt

While 1936 can be viewed as a turning point in the Nazi Kunstpolitik because of the decision to pursue an unambiguous antimodernist policy, 1938 marked the emergence of a more lawless and destructive campaign against the art deemed unacceptable. After 1936 the lack of toleration subsequently evolved into a more violent and unbridled radicalism, and cultural bureaucrats exhibited little regard for domestic law or world opinion. The Nazis' radical and often illegal behavior served two purposes: (1) the pursuit of their ideological goals, which included the elimination of all art in the Reich that conflicted with their conception of German art, and (2) the leaders' personal gain. This mixture of misguided idealism and self-enrichment -- with the latter becoming an increasingly discernible source of motivation -- characterized the behavior of the Nazi leaders after 1938. The purge of the prestigious Preußische Akademie der bildenden Künste that entailed the forced resignations of well-known modern artists, including Ernst Barlach, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Mies van der Rohe, and Oskar Kokoschka; the disposal of modern art from state collec-

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