Monday Lectures

8 February 2021

Awaiting the Apocalypse - German Art and the Third Reich - Part Two: 1936 - 1944

Felix Nussbaum, Self-Portrait with Jewish Identity Card, 1943, Nussbaum Museum, Osnabrück

Even before the arrival of Adolf Hitler to power as chancellor of the German Republic in January 1933, the rise and threat of National Socialist ideology was felt in the Weimar Republic from the late 1920s onwards. The Bauhaus, Germany’s most progressive art and design school, had had to abandon its premises in Weimar after the election of a conservative government supported by the Nazi party in the state of Thuringia in 1925. After the Nazis won the municipal elections in Dessau, the Bauhaus had to move yet again from its second location to Berlin where, finally, after a Gestapo search in April 1933, the school was dissolved altogether.



In our lecture we will trace the impact of German politics on the art of the era and particularly the reaction of the modern artists in Germany to the advent of the Third Reich. We will see how the new regime defined what was true German and “un-German” art, culminating in the celebrated "Entartete Kunst" (“Degenerate Art”) exhibition held in Munich in 1937. We will follow many artists’ paths to external or internal exile and see how art, despite constant adversity and the great vulnerability of its creators, can still reveal and define the profound truths of the human condition in the most extreme circumstances. Max Beckmann, Felix Nussbaum, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Ernst, Franz Radziwill, Charlotte Salomon, Richard Oelze, Emil Nolde, John Heartfield and Adolf Ziegler are among the principal artists whose work we will be examining.

Max Ernst - Europe after the Rain II 1940-42, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut