Degenerate Art

A term coined in Germany in the 1930s to discredit all contemporary art that did not correspond to the ideology of the Nazi party. Such art, which included most avant-garde work, was systematically defamed and suppressed in Germany throughout the period when the Nazis ruled the country, 1933–1945. Adolf Hitler linked art with political doctrines and racial theories, attacking modern art as ‘political and cultural anarchy’. The ruthless campaign against modern ideas in art also included the closing of the Bauhaus in 1933. Hitler made his first speech against ‘degenerate art’ at Nuremberg in 1934, and a series of exhibitions designed to ridicule modern art culminated in an infamous show (also called Entartete Kunst) that opened in Munich in 1937 and then went on tour round Germany. In Munich it was shown alongside the first annual “Great German Art Exhibition” of Nazi-approved art; this was thoroughly traditional in concept and technique, and favored themes (often militaristic) that glorified Hitler and his ideals of Aryan supremacy.





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