Max Beckmann (1884-1950) Departure, Frankfurt 1932, Berlin 1933-35 Oil on canvas 84 ¾ x 39 ¼ in. (215.3 x 99.7 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously (by exchange) Digital Image © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/ Art Resource, NY © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Max Beckmann (1884-1950) Departure, Frankfurt 1932, Berlin 1933-35
Oil on canvas 84 ¾ x 39 ¼ in. (215.3 x 99.7 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously (by exchange) Digital Image © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/ Art Resource, NY
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Did you know Adolf Hitler was an artist and art aficionado who was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna – twice? Although he was encouraged by the school to apply to the Academy’s School of Architecture, the academic bureaucracy discouraged him from doing so.  He held a (big) grudge and, years later, he would exact his revenge in the form of a propaganda art exhibit in 1937 entitled entartete Kunst (degenerate art).

The art his Nazi regime deemed “un-German” was banned and those who supported this work were subject to dismissal from teaching positions (hence the targeted revenge), prevented from selling or producing such art, or worse.  Its prime targets were works that came out of Cubism and Expressionism and even included those by Picasso, Chagall, and Matisse.

Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler at the Degenerate Art Show, 1937.

Adolf Hitler and other Nazi officials (Hoffmann, Willrich, Hansen, and Ziegler) standing by the Dada wall at the “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibition, July 16, 1937. Published in the Nationalist Observer, South
German (Süddeutsche) issue, No. 199, July 18, 1937. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Germany. bpk, Berlin, Art Resource, NY

The term “degenerate” was adopted by the National Socialist regime as part of its campaign against modern art (and basically anything it didn’t like).  During the war, many works were seized from museums and private collections as artists and collectors fled to safety.

The Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937 exhibit will be in NYC until September 1, 2014, at the Neue Galerie.  The show comes on the tail of the recently released film, Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, which has spurred interest in the historical treatment of art during war and occupation.

Although many of the works in the Nazi exhibit were sold or destroyed, the show’s curators managed to bring together at least some works and photographs from the original and others from works that escaped the führer’s clutch.

Note:  This exhibit is for teens and adults only –  the museum only allows children over the age of 12.

Recommended Reading:

Rescuing Da Vinci by Robert M. Edsel

The Rape of Europa:  The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by Linda H. Nicholas