Cover of the exhibition program: Degenerate Art exhibition, 1937. Note the word “Kunst”, meaning art, in scare quotes
Degenerate art (Entartete Kunst, in German) is a term used to describe pieces of art that are intended to perversion. Even Neanderthal cave paintings are far superior to degenerate art. While the origin of this term dates from the nineteenth century or even earlier, was popularized during the years of the Third Reich.
In 2005, ABCNews ran this test to bigwigs in the “art” industry to see if they could tell whether a piece was “modern art” or was just artwork by a toddler. The art bigwigs could not tell. Even art by animals is of the same quality or superior to “modern art”. In another instance, toddler Freddie Linsky in 2007 did ketchup paintings and fooled the art world into thinking a famous adult degenerate artist made them.
Degenerate art during the Third Reich
Hitler’s rise to power on January 31, 1933 was quickly followed by actions intended to cleanse the culture of degeneracy: book burnings were organized, artists and musicians were dismissed from teaching positions, and curators who had shown a partiality to degenerate art were replaced by Party members. In September 1933 the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Culture Chamber) was established, with Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reichminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) in charge. Subchambers within the Culture Chamber, representing the individual arts (music, film, literature, architecture, and the visual arts) were created; these were membership groups consisting of “racially pure” artists supportive of the Party, or willing to be compliant. Dr. Goebbels made it clear: “In future only those who are members of a chamber are allowed to be productive in our cultural life. Membership is open only to those who fulfill the entrance condition. In this way all unwanted and damaging elements have been excluded.” By 1935 the Reich Culture Chamber had 100,000 members.
Nonetheless there was, during the period 1933-1934, some confusion within the Party on the question of Expressionism. Dr. Goebbels and some others believed that the forceful works of such artists as Emil Nolde, Ernst Barlach and Erich Heckel exemplified the Nordic spirit; as Dr. Goebbels explained, “We National-Socialists are not unmodern; we are the carrier of a new modernity, not only in politics and in social matters, but also in art and intellectual matters.” However, a fraction led by Rosenberg despised the Expressionists, leading to a bitter ideological dispute which was settled only in September 1934, when Hitler declared that there would be no place for modernist experimentation in the Reich.
Although books by Franz Kafka✡ could no longer be bought by 1939, works by ideologically suspect authors such as Hermann Hesse and Hans Fallada were widely read. Mass culture was less stringently regulated than high culture, possibly because the authorities feared the consequences of too heavy-handed interference in popular entertainment. Thus, until the outbreak of the war, most Hollywood films could be screened, including It Happened One Night, San Francisco, and Gone with the Wind. While performance of atonal music was banned, the prohibition of jazz was less strictly enforced. Benny Goodman and Django Reinhardt were popular, and leading British and American jazz bands continued to perform in major cities until the war; thereafter, dance bands officially played “swing” rather than the banned jazz.
Membership in the NSDAP did not protect Emil Nolde, whose 1912 woodcut The Prophet is shown here, from being proscribed by Hitler. 1052 of Nolde’s paintings were removed from German museums, more than any other artist.
The Entartete Kunst exhibit
By 1937, the concept of degeneracy was firmly entrenched in National-Socialist policy. On June 30 of that year Dr. Goebbels put Adolf Ziegler, the head of the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste (Reich Chamber of Visual Art), in charge of a six-man commission authorized to confiscate from museums and art collections throughout the Reich, any remaining art deemed modern, degenerate, or subversive. These works were then to be presented to the public in an exhibit intended to incite further revulsion against the “perverse Jewish spirit” penetrating German culture.
Over 5,000 works were seized, including 1,052 by Nolde, 759 by Heckel, 639 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and 508 by Max Beckmann, as well as smaller numbers of works by such artists as Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall✡, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso✡ and Vincent van Gogh. The Entartete Kunst exhibit, featuring over 650 paintings, sculptures, prints, and books from the collections of thirty two German museums, premiered in Munich on July 19, 1937 and remained on view until November 30 before travelling to eleven other cities in Germany and Austria.
The exhibit was held on the second floor of a building formerly occupied by the Institute of Archaeology. Viewers had to reach the exhibit by means of a narrow staircase. The first sculpture was an oversized, theatrical portrait of Jesus, which purposely intimidated viewers as they literally bumped into it in order to enter. The rooms were made of temporary partitions and deliberately chaotic and overfilled. Pictures were crowded together, sometimes unframed, usually hung by cord.
The first three rooms were grouped thematically. The first room contained works considered demeaning of religion; the second featured works by Jewish artists in particular; the third contained works deemed insulting to the women, soldiers and farmers of Germany. The rest of the exhibit had no particular theme.
There were slogans painted on the walls. For example:
- Insolent mockery of the Divine under Centrist rule
- Revelation of the Jewish racial soul
- An insult to German womanhood
- The ideal—cretin and whore
- Deliberate sabotage of national defense
- German farmers—a Yiddish view
- The Jewish longing for the wilderness reveals itself—in Germany the Negro becomes the racial ideal of a degenerate art
- Madness becomes method
- Nature as seen by sick minds
- Even museum bigwigs called this the “art of the German people”
Speeches of National-Socialist party leaders contrasted with artist manifestos from various art movements, such as Dada and Surrealism. Next to many paintings were labels indicating how much money a museum spent to acquire the artwork. In the case of paintings acquired during the post-war Weimar hyperinflation of the early 1920s, when the cost of a kilo loaf of bread reached 233 billion German marks, the prices of the paintings were of course greatly exaggerated. The exhibit was designed to promote the idea that modernism was a conspiracy by people who hated German decency, frequently identified as Jewish-Bolshevist, although only six of the 112 artists included in the exhibition were in fact Jewish.
A few weeks after the opening of the exhibition, Dr. Goebbels ordered a second and more thorough scouring of German art collections; inventory lists indicate that the artworks seized in this second round, combined with those gathered prior to the exhibition, amounted to some 16,558 works.
Coinciding with the Entartete Kunst exhibition, the Grosse deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German art exhibition) made its premiere amid much pageantry. This exhibition, held at the palatial Haus der deutschen Kunst (House of German Art), 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.
Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler visit the Degenerate Art exhibition, 1937.
Dr. Goebbels views the Degenerate Art exhibition
The fate of the artists and their work
Avant-garde German artists were now branded both enemies of the state and a threat to German culture. Many went into exile. Max Beckmann fled to Amsterdam on the opening day of the entartete Kunst exhibit. Max Ernst emigrated to America with the assistance of Peggy Guggenheim✡. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner committed suicide in Switzerland in 1938. Paul Klee spent his years in exile in Switzerland, yet was unable to obtain Swiss citizenship because of his status as a degenerate artist.
Other artists remained in internal exile. Otto Dix retreated to the countryside to paint unpeopled landscapes in a meticulous style that would not provoke the authorities. The Reichskulturkammer forbade artists such as Edgar Ende and Emil Nolde from purchasing painting materials. Those who remained in Germany were forbidden to work at universities and were subject to surprise raids by the Geheime Staatspolizei in order to ensure that they were not violating the ban on producing artwork; Nolde secretly carried on painting, but using only watercolors (so as not to be betrayed by the telltale odor of oil paint). Although officially no artists were put to death because of their work, Jews who did not escape from Germany in time were sent to concentration camps. Some, if mental ill, were handled in the Action T4 (see for example Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler).
After the exhibit, paintings were sorted out for sale and sold in Switzerland at auction; some pieces were acquired by museums, others by private collectors. National-Socialist officials took many for their private use: for example, Hermann Göring took fourteen valuable pieces, including a Van Gogh and a Cézanne. In March, 1939, the Berlin Fire Brigade burned approximately 4000 works which had little value on the international market.
A large amount of ‘degenerate art’ by Picasso, Dalí, Ernst, Klee, Léger and Miró was destroyed in a bonfire on the night of July 27, 1942 in the gardens of the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris.
After the collapse of Third Reich and the invasion of Berlin by the Red Army, some artwork from the exhibit was found buried underground. It is unclear how many of these then reappeared in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg where they still remain.
In 2010, as work began to extend an underground line from Alexanderplatz through the historic city centre to the Brandenburg Gate, a number of sculptures from the degenerate art exhibition were unearthed in the cellar of a private house close to the “Rote Rathaus”. These included, for example, the bronze cubist style statue of a female dancer by the artist Marg Moll, and are now on display at the Neues Museum.
A confiscated self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh is auctioned at Gallerie Fisher, Lucerne, in 1939. The winning bid was $US 40.000 by Dr. Frankfurter.
Artists in the 1937 Munich show
Degenerate art has become far worse today from people making “art” with urine, period blood, and feces to women shoving objects up their bodily cavities, dropping them on a canvas and calling it art. Often urine and excrement are put on Christian religious symbols (e.g. the Piss Christ degenerate “art”) but put them on a Muslim or Jewish art piece and it’s not allowed. This is often done as performance art too.
In 2014, 27-year-old jewish artist Lana Newstrom✡ invented a scam called “invisible art” where gullible goyim pay millions of dollars to buy “invisible art” which is really just absolutely nothing at all.
Artistic movements of degenerate art
- New Objectivity
- Performance art
Main article: List of degenerate artists
“What we are seeing are sick products of madness, impertinence and lack of talent. I would need Several freight trains to clean our galleries of this trash.” (Adolf Ziegler, House of Culture of the Third Reich, Munich 1937).
Old Man (1907), Oskar Kokoschka.
Christ and Children (1910), Emil Nolde.
Winter (1912), Marc Chagall.
Rabbin (1912), Marc Chagall.
Two cats, blue and yellow (1912), Franz Marc.
Self portrait (1912), Ludwig Meidner.
Nude and eunuchs: The guard of the harem (1912), Emil Nolde.
Scene Street 19 (1913-1914), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.
Commentaries on degenerate art:
Quality art gets one denied from art school while degenerate art gets one graduated.
There has been several incidents where cleaners mistook modern art for trash and thrown it away.
Jewish Occupation Forces made these drawings at the wall of the Ministry of Culture in Ramallah in 2009 as part of a campaign to deliberately destroy Palestine as a nation.
A fun prank to do at a “contemporary art” gallery.
- You Call That Art?
- http://www.jaxbeachtech.com/node/16 originally from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-499240/Toddler-fools-art-world-buying-tomato-ketchup-paintings.html but the current version lost the photos. Screencap of daily mail with photos http://imgur.com/VtQbGCC
- Adam 1992, p.52
- Adam 1992, p.53
- Adam 1992, p. 53
- Adam 1992, p.56
- Grosshans 1983, p. 73-74
- Laqueur 1996, p. 74.
- Laqueur 1996, p. 73.
- Laqueur 1996, pp. 73-5.
- Adam 1992, p.123, quoting Goebbels, November 26, 1937, in Von der Grossmacht zur Weltmacht.
- Adam 1992, pp. 121-122
- Barron 1991, p.46
- Evans 2004, p. 106.
- Barron 1991, p.9.
- Barron 1991, pp.47-48
- Adam 1992, pp.124-125
- Hammerstingl, Werner (1998). “Entartete Kunst”, olinda.com. Retrieved December 31, 2007.
- Schulz-Hoffmann and Weiss 1984, p. 461
- Karcher 1988, p. 206
- Bradley 1986, p. 115.
- Petropoulos 2000, p. 217.
- Grosshans 1983, p. 113
- Entartete Kunst. Olinda.com (1937-07-19). Retrieved on 2010-08-12.
- Hellman, Mallory, Let’s Go Paris, page 84
- Hickley, Catherine (1946-09-27). ‘Degenerate’ Art Unearthed From Berlin Bomb Rubble. Bloomberg. Retrieved on 2010-11-10.
- Rescued pre-WWII ‘degenerate art’ on display in the Neues Museum in Berlin. Nydailynews.com. Retrieved on 2010-11-10.
- Charles Hawley (11/08/2010). “Nazi Degenerate Art Rediscovered in Berlin”. Der Spiegel.