A spectacular outcome of this initiative was the exhibition "Entartete Kunst", which opened on July 19, 1937 in Munich. Under the title "Degenerate Art" were shown the works of 200 of the foremost contemporary artists, German expressionists from "Die Brücke" and "Der Blaue Reiter," works by Chagall, van Gogh, Lehmbruck, Kadinsky, Modrian and many others. The atmosphere of "degeneracy" of the exhibited art was underscored by the particular layout of the exposition, haphazard and chaotic. The exhibited items were accompanied - as in the Karlsruhe showing four years earlier, - provocative commentaries, dirty jokes and information regarding prices paid for these "worthless fruits of diseased minds" by German museums for their collections. How effectively the Nazi propagandists chose the means by which to discredit contemporary art is evident from the opinion quoted in the press: "These artists should be tied to their paintings so as to provide every German with the opportunity of spitting in their faces; not just the artists but also the directors of the musea who in a period of massive unemployment stuffed great sums in the mouths of these horrors." The initiative of confiscation of contemporary works of art was legalized by the "act regarding degenerate art" of May 31, 1938. It was decided to sell for profit part of the confiscated artworks - presented for the benefit of public opinion as worthless - at an auction in Switzerland. On June 30th, 1939, a public auction of "paintings and sculptures of modern masters from German musea" took place in the Grand Hotel National in Lucerne. Sold were artworks by Braque, Chagall, Derain, Ensor, Gaugin, van Gogh, Modigliani, Matisse, Picasso, Nolde, Klee and many others, for which there was no longer any room in German culture.
A day prior to the opening of the exhibition of "degenerate art" there took place in Munich the ceremonial opening of the newly erected House of German Art (Haus der Deutsche Kunst, designed by. Paul Ludwig Troost), where henceforth exhibitions of Nazi art took place every year. In the inaugural address, Adolf Hitler presented the principals on which, henceforth, the new art was supposed to be based. Above all it should be accessible and for the masses. "Art," he said- "which cannot count on the most warm and whole-hearted acceptance by the sane, widespread mass of the nation, but instead relies on small, in part interested and in part blase cliques, cannot be countenanced." In emphatic words he forbade the use by artists of colors other that are "normally" observed in nature. He appealed for a return to genuiness and the taking into account the tastes of the ordinary viewer. At the same time, art should not only reflect reality, it should aim to present ideal portrayals in which would be combined beauty and strength, and that which is ugly and weak - fear, pain, ill fortune - excluded. A "sunny realism," should reveal itself in both the choice of subject and in the manner of presentation of the forms. An important element of the program of the new art was the question of the racial ideal of beauty. Beauty constantly threatened - according to Hitler - by "the Jewish world enemy," which "has on its banner written the destruction of both that which is true and that which is beautiful."

based on Sztuka a systemy totalitarne (Art and totalitarian systems) by Waldemar Baraniewski.

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English translation by Peter K. Gessner of Polish original posted by Liga Republicanska
© 2000 Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo. All rights reserved.


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