UK Shoah archive to run exhibit on Nazi campaign against ‘degenerate’ art

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UK Shoah archive to run exhibit on Nazi campaign against ‘degenerate’ art

Wiener Library to host display exactly 80 years after an exhibition responding to the Third Reich’s attack on modern art

Hitler visiting the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich, 1937. Wiener Library Collections.
Hitler visiting the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich, 1937. Wiener Library Collections.

Britain’s national Holocaust archive is to host a new exhibition on the Nazis’ campaign against “degenerate” art and the artistic response from London.

Beginning on 13 June, it is being held at the Wiener Library, exactly 80 years since the original exhibition – at the New Burlington Galleries in London – was held in response to the Third Reich’s attack on modern art.

Beginning in the late 1920s, the Nazis started removing art they didn’t like from the nation’s museums and city halls, because it was deemed un-German, Jewish, Communist, and/or “an insult to German feeling”.

Only a decade earlier, during the Weimar Republic, Germany had been a leading centre of the avant-garde, and was known as the home of Expressionism, but many of the new forms of art were derided as “elitist”.

Max Slevogt, Der Panther, 1931. One of the original artworks from the New Burlington Galleries’ exhibition on show at The Wiener Library’s new exhibition. Private collection.

Later, while some modern art was permitted, the Nazi high command preferred to push traditional art more in-keeping with the party’s “blood and soil” slogan.

The exhibition – put together in direct response – remains the largest display of twentieth-century German art ever staged in Britain.

The show featured over three hundred examples of modern German art by exactly those artists who had faced persecution in Germany.

The Wiener Library’s exhibition features a number of the original artworks from the New Burlington Galleries’ exhibition, including works by Emil Nolde and Max Slevogt, presented with the stories of their lenders in 1938. The show will also include items from the library’s archival collections.

Original Catalogue of the Twentieth Century German Art exhibition. Wiener Library Collections.
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