IDEOLOGY AND ART IN GERMANY 1937



This IBDP Extended Essay in the Visual Arts received 34/36

Why, in 1937 Nationalist Germany, was Max Bergmann´s  painting “Frühling” (1925) labelled as politically correct, whilst Max Bergmann´s “TanzBar in Baden-Baden” (1923) labelled as Degenerate?




ABSTRACT

In this essay I will concentrate on the two National Socialist Exhibitions will attempt to prove that although the Nazi tried to manipulate public opinion by labelling Art politically, they were unable to curtail the creative spirits of artist like Max Beckmann, who had to go into exile after the Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich 1937. However also Max Bergmann, who had official Nazi approval of being painter of the German “Volk” after the simultaneous Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung, also had a style, which the Nazi, had they known, would have found subversive.





INTRODUCTION

         Can one put a political label on art? In National Socialist Germany during the 1930s, the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, devised a scheme to use art as a tool to spread Nazi ideology by labelling thousands of modern paintings as “Degenerate”.  The idea of “true art” enforced in form of two simultaneous exhibitions in 1937. In Munich the magnificent Haus der Kunst was built to house works marked as politically correct, while the “Entartete” exhibition took place in a small building nearby. The sheer difference of location conveys the National Socialist message. For my investigations, I have chosen two contemporary paintings, which were exhibited in each of the two venues.  Within the research question “Why was, in 1937 Nationalist Germany,  Max Bergmann´s painting “Frühling” (“Spring”) labelled as politically correct, while Max Beckmanns  “Tanzbar in Baden-Baden” (Dancing Bar in Baden-Baden”), 1923, as degenerate, I will investigate the justification of labelling art, and the choice of art and culture to represent Nazi Germany. My point of view is that art cannot fairly be designated as being the right or the wrong kind. Hitler specifically chose the traditional, classical artistic styles, whilst shunning diversions from the art he wanted to represent his ideology. As I have been living in Germany for several years and am very interested in Art as well as History, this topic is significant to me by giving insight  into both the development of modern art in Germany and the country itself.



THE IDEA OF DEGENERATE ART

Degenerate Art was the term used by the Nazis to denote everything in modern art movement. Modernism was being pushed by the likes of Otto Dix, George Grosz, Max Beckmann and Emil Nolde. It took the form of Dada, Surrealism, Expressionism and Cubism, which had begun to emerge during the avant-garde years of the Weimar republic. The art blossomed into pieces containing the political views of the artist, his expressions and even pieces daring to criticize the government. However, Expressionism was shunned by the Nazi party, branded a threat to German culture and ultimately banned.  Over 20,000 pieces of art were removed and confiscated from galleries, museums and private collections. Some were then displayed in the 1937 Degenerate Art exhibition that was made to insult and ridicule their style. The artists where also banned from painting and prosecuted. Max Beckmann escaped to London, while others, like Nolde, stayed but were banned from buying painting equipment.







NAZI CULTURAL IDEOLOGY

Hitler’s statement “Anyone who sees and paints the sky green and fields blue ought to be sterilized”  (http://thinkexist.com) was far from exaggerated. The Nazi party went out of its way to ensure that the “original” German spirit of art was preserved and presented. The ideal, perfect picture, in Hitler´s and Goebbels opinion, was that it would contain the attributes of their ideology to portray, such as national pride, family, duty, discipline, heroism and moral purity. The paintings would often feature the countryside. Peasant life was displayed as wholesome and preserving rural values, the people typically beautiful, proud Aryans, or the “Volk”, Hitler’s perfect race, shown in everyday situations to display Germany as peaceful and traditional. The Nazi Party used Art as weapon to manipulate the public. It had essentially become propaganda. 



Haus der Kunst  is a huge museum in the centre of Munich.The venue was a masterpiece of German culture itself, built to house German art. It is an imposing building stretching down the prominent Prinzregentenstraße. However, if one is to walk a little further and cross into the narrow and well hidden Galeriestraße behind Hofgarten,  one will come across the inconspicuous, small building where the “Entartete” art was been carelessly, overcrowded and crammed into narrow rooms for public ridicule.

       Enartete opened 19th July 1937. The Nazi painter Adolf Ziegler announced in his in his opening speech that: “We now stand in an exhibition that contains only a fraction of what was bought with the hard-earned savings of the German people and exhibited as art by a large number of museums all over Germany. All around us you see the monstrous offspring of insanity, impudence, ineptitude, and sheer degeneracy. What this exhibition offers inspires horror and disgust in us all”.

      On the walls mocking, derogative messages and texts were scribbled around the paintings. These terms accused the paintings of insulting German War heroes, being anti-governmental and marked them as “Perverted Jewish spirit” and a danger to German culture. Five rooms within the exhibit had themes where pictures had been grouped. One room was preserved for the paintings guilty of insulting woman, another for farmers and German soldiers, in another the paintings were to have a religious or blasphemous theme, while a third contained specifically art by the Jewish painters, even though only six out of the selected 112 artist were Jewish. The show described the modern art movement as a conspiracy and tried to convince the German public that this art was inferior to that of the officially approved works by artists such as Adolf Ziegler and Arno Breker. The close proximity of the two exhibitions gave the public opportunity to experience the right and the wrong kind of art at the same time.

Interestingly, the “Entartete” Exhibition became a blockbuster, with around three million visiting Germans, three times as many as the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung. This could hint that the general public had a genuine interest in different, modern art, despite the opinions of the regime.



THE POWER OF THE VENUES

“Die Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung” was held in the House der Kunst, parallel to the exhibit of degenerate art and opened the day before. The magnificent building that was designed by Paul Ludwig  Troost housed the artwork approved by Hitler and Goebbels. As Hitler said, “With the opening of this Exhibition, the end of the cultural destruction of our people has started.” The museum is a monument to Nazi propaganda. Nazi symbols are still visible engraved into the marble inside the building.

   The building is still used today to house exhibits of mainly modern art. This shows Germanys evolution in art, and how modernism overcame the very forces that opposed them. These are now presented in the structure built to rival the degenerate art. When one inspects the avenues of presentation there are hints of the actual art and the difference between the two groups created in Germany. On one hand, there is the colossal majestic building, built in stone and with enormous pillars as show of power. The very ideals that the Nazi Party were trying to convey though architecture and many sculptures and paintings, were like those of ancient Rome, thus also the Roman, classical inspired temple design for Haus der Kunst. On the other hand it is a paradox that the “Entartete” building also contained massive amounts of German culture. This building is also symbolic for the art it presented, with both the exhibits and the way they were presented as being surreal and expressionistic. In both venues the visitor was experiencing the hidden ideologies.



PROBLEMS OF RESEARCH

         In my hunt to find paintings to compare I began to research types of Nazi art. Following research about the some of, I found that these paintings had been archived in different museums around German. I then searched for the triptych “The Four Elements” by Adolf Ziegler, which is in Munich city archive. After sending a letter to the “Pinakothek der Moderne”, the most important modern art museum in Munich, I discovered that these paintings where not allowed to be shown to the public because of the history behind them. The labelling of art by Hitler, and the act of forcing his ideology onto paintings, had caused the German government to stop these works of art from being seen in public..

       Fortunately, as I discovered, the grandson of Max Bergmann, one of the approved Nazi painters, lives in his grandfather’s gallery and studio, which lies just outside my home village. Although Max Bergmann was not part of the National Socialist Party, the Party approved his style of painting, accurate scenes of heroic farmers and rural beauty.  One of his paintings, “Frühling”, which I will discuss later, was exhibited in Haus der Kunst in 1937 and is now owned by his grandson. I was granted a visit to view this in his home.





COMPARISONS OF THE ART WORKS OF BERGMANN AND BECKMANN

To show the difference between the two types of arts, and why one was treasured by the Nazi party, I will compare the painting “Tanzbar in Baden-Baden” by Max Beckmann with the Nationalist Socialist approved painting “Frühling” by Max Bergmann. “Tanzbar”, now on display in Pinakothek der Modern in Munich, was painted in 1923. It is in oil on canvas and measures 100.5cm x 65.5cm making it quite a large piece.  “Tanzbar”, as well as other works by Max Beckmann, were hung in Room five in the “Entartete”, which catalogue described as: “This section of the exhibition affords a survey of the moral aspect of degeneracy in art. To those “artists” whom it represents, the entire world is clearly no more or less than a brothel and the human race is exclusively composed of harlots and pimps. Among these works of painted and drawn pornography there are some that can no longer be displayed, even in the “Degenerate Art” exhibition, in view of the fact that that women will be among the visitors.” It shows how the Nazi propagandists were imposing their uncompromising opinions on what harmful art.



INTERPRETATION, BECKMANN´S “TANZBAR BADEN-BADEN”

      “Tanzbar” was painted during the Weimar Republic, at the time when the Expressionist style picked up in Germany. It shows a scene from the 1920s and depicts the upper social class. The format of the painting is high and narrow, showing two couples dominating the centre, with people squashed in around them, pressing against the frame. The figures fill the whole space, making it cramped and unnatural scene. The unreality is enforced with the multiple perspective being very steep and exaggerated. The figures appear like they are pushed towards the viewer. It is painted this way to make the viewer feel claustrophobic and uneasy, thus criticising the top of society, accusing the rich of inhabiting their very own little privileged world, not caring about, the bad things that happen outside, like the massive problems in society after the First World War.

        “Tanzbar” is painted in an expressionist style, which evokes mood and promotes feelings. The scene is non-fictional, but the reality is that it a political, emotional statement. The expressionist painters used these kinds of work to oppose the impressionist and realistic style of the Nazi artists, in order give social criticism. Looking at the painting, there are seven hands and arms are pointing to the bottom right corner, cutting the painting into diagonals. This is to give an idea of the rhythm and dance, portrayed in the piece. The angle of the floor and the man in the left bottom corner both act as counter movements to balance the picture. The red and black colours create another pattern. The red dress, then a black smoking, followed by a red bow tie and the red stocking with a white shoe all further create a cadence. The source of light in “Tanzbar” is rather diffuse. It seems that it comes from the left, even though there are no real shadows cast by the characters, making make them seem to float, all adding to the nightmarish feel. The couples are very close but it seems there is no real connection, shown by the woman looking away. It could be a comment on how the upper class was united only by their ego.

 “Tanzbar” was painted during the pinnacle of the Weimar inflation. Put together with the jewellery and clothes of the characters, it gives a sense of how well off and uncaring the upper class was about the people suffering outside and the massive problems in society after the First World War.

However, as the steep perspective indicates, which makes it look as though the character might slide off, their way of life is about to come to an end. Max Beckmann has made a very critical prediction of, what social instability would cause.



INTERPRETATION, BERGMANN´S “FRÜHLING”

         The painting “Frühling” by Max Bergmann was painted in 1925 and exhibited in the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung. Painted in oil on canvas, like ”Tanzbar”, and measuring 120x90 cm, it depicts two cows dragging a load. In the background are trees. It is painted in an exact, naturalistic style, but with loose, energetic brushstrokes like the Impressionists. The cows are facing directly out of the picture. It is a classic Bavarian scene where the artist has attempted to convey the beauty of the farmland. On the right hand side, part of the farmer is seen. He is driving his cows in the lovely weather. The sun is shining, which is why he is wearing a hat and the shadows appear purple. The light is coming directly from the front, this is evident of the way the shadows hits the ground, emphasizing the highlights on the cows, and giving the scene a naturalistic feel. There is no sky to be seen, so it is a very intimate painting. Because of the extreme foreshortening of the cows and the linear one-point perspective it gives the viewer the viewer a sense of engaging directly with the scene and being, standing on the pathway, directly confronting the cows.

     It is important that the painting is painted outdoors or “en plain air” which means open-air, and derives from French impressionist artists like Monet and Renoir.  Hitler and Goebbels approved this style of art because it depicted the Völkisch tradition, is very rural, serene and adheres to the old traditional values of people tending to their own business. It also signifies that the Germans should get back to nature and basic existence. The Nazi party wanted these original peaceful scenes to represent their culture, in “Frühling” enforced by the fact how fat and well tended the cows are. The contentment on the farmer’s face shows there is no hint of war or tension outside the picture. These kinds of paintings were after all used by the National Socialists to deceive the public. They tried to convey that Germany was still beautiful and well tended, and the brutal acts, which they were committing, where not really happening. Or it could be an apology for committing atrocities in order to preserve these values from outside threats, like the Jews and the Communists.  Art was used as an illusion by Hitler created to convince the public that the goal was the old moral values, in comparison to the decadence of the Weimar culture.



DIFFENENCES AND SIMELARITIES OF THE TWO WORKS

      Both Max Beckmann and Max Bergmann were contemporary and practiced painting at almost to the same time.  “Tanzbar” and “Frühling” are similar in size, and both are painted in very traditional medium of oil on canvas. The oil medium means great artistic diversity and a beautiful shiny surface is created, also when it is dry. A multitude of tones and shades can be created. Both artists rely on “chiaroscuro”, which comes from the Italian and means strong contrast between light and shade. This effect is used to create depth and strong three-dimensional image. Max Beckmann uses this cleverly by having the woman wear bright colours in contrast to the gentleman’s black smoking, making the painting bold and striking. Max Bergmann likewise uses strong tonal contrasts to emphasize his figures in sunlight. Where               

      Beckmann uses multiple perspectives like the Cubists, making the scene unreal, while Bergmann uses one point perspective, which is very traditional and realistic. “Frühling” gives an atmosphere of rural peace while “Tanzbar” gives a noisy crammed almost eerie ambience. The painting by Beckmann seems to be swirling and contained, spinning in circles around itself, while Bergmann’s is open and free. It is interesting, however, that the viewer is unable to enter either painting. In “Tanzbar” entry is impossible because of the self-sustaining whirl and the naked arms, which are pushed against the picture plane, barring entry and only allowing the viewer to observe the decadent rich from the outside.  It is an obvious social criticism of a social world, which is only open to a few, selected and arrogant people. Equally in “Früling” the viewer cannot enter the painting. The cows, in effect a peaceful scene, faces the viewer straight on and approaches with what actually seems to be in a disconcerting, slightly threatening, way.  The noses of the animals are touching the picture plane, and if the viewer does not move he or she will be trampled on. It could be an image of the fact that rural life is perhaps not that romantic as the Nazi wanted people to believe, and everything is an illusion. The fact that the cows are so extremely foreshortened is first of all to show off the artist’s skill in drawing and observation, but also to create an unusual, staged atmosphere. Maybe this is an inherent criticism of the social conditions.



MAX BECKMANN BIOGRAPHY

        Max Beckmann was born in 1884 in Leipzig and was the youngest of three children of a merchant family. After the death of his father he moved to Braunschweig, and went to the Art Academy in Weimar. In Berlin he encountered the emerging German impressionist painters and began to paint in this style as well. During WW1 he became involuntarily a nursing officer on the Eastern Front. In 1915 he had a nervous breakdown because of his war experiences and was sent to a Hospital in Frankfurt. The paintings he did during the War were exclusively Expressionist, which he continued after discovering “Die Brücke”, an Expressionist movement from Dresden. It became a way of expressing the horrors of the War, no longer realistic but with more extreme emotions and scenes. 1925 he married Quappi, who features in a lot of his paintings. He taught at the art academy in Frankfurt and became quite famous, with exhibits in America and in Europe. In 1933 with the Nazi Party taking power, he lost his job, was banned from painting and his art labelled as Degenerate. Between 1993-1936 over 800 of his works were confiscated from exhibits all over Germany. One week after the exhibition in Munich he felt forced to flee to London. He passed away December 1950 in New York, but as a very famous, renowned artist.



MAX BERGMANN BIOGRAPHY

      The German artist Max Bergmann was born the 2nd of December, also in 1884, in Fürstenberg. His parents owned a dyeing factory and were quite wealthy. He started painting early and quickly became very good at portrait drawings. He visited the “Fine Art Academy Schalottenburg” in Berlin where he could further progress in his work.  In 1907 he studied figure drawing and animal painting at the Art Academy in Munich. Like Bergmann, he was also sent to the Front during WW1. In his house his I saw old photographs of him as a dashing young officer, a post he became straight away because family’s social standing. Unlike his artist colleague, he came out of the War unscathed, but with a lot of sketches of the local people in Hungary. Bergmann then began to travel to Paris, where he became a close friend of Marcel Duchamp, the later famous Dadaist. In Bergmann’s house, I was allowed to see original postcards and sketches, which Hans Peter Bergmann’s grandfather had received from Duchamp. Later he married Dorothea Karstadt, heiress to the huge Munich Karstadt dynasty. They moved to Haimhausen, my village, where he formed an art school, focusing on painting outside in the open air. Bergmann is probably mostly known within Germany, but his paintings stand now in high regard. Because of his impressionist style and content of his paintings he was presented in the first Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung. It was his life on the country that inspired his paintings. Max Bergmann did not have his work confiscated, but was made to report many times during the War to an “Internat”, checking if his art appropriately conveyed the message that the National socialists wanted it to.







VISIT TO MAX BERMANN´S STUDIO

        I visited the grandchild of Max Bergmann, Hans Peter Bergmann, on Monday 10th August 2011. He still to this day lives in the house, where Max Bergman lived and worked. The old, imposing artist villa, which before 1919 belonged to the well-known landscape artist, Buttersack, is local Haimhausen. Max Bergman wanted to be away from the bigger cities and have freedom and peace to paint. The huge garden also allowed him and his art student to paint outside. Hans Peter Bergmann allowed me to see the original, amazing art studio which still stands like it has done for almost over ninety years.  The paintings he had inherited from his grandfather were displayed everywhere and were absolutely incredible. Max Bergmann had an unbelievable skill of direct observation of nature and people, and he used very rich and colourful oil paint. His style was often sketchy, where only a few brushstrokes indicated his subject, capturing the form and colour and giving a realistic and lively effect . The figure paintings, his portraits and his nudes were powerful, several almost expressionistic in colour and brush strokes and with strong emphasis on light and shade. Some of the works, like “Salome “ and “The Sirens” were staged with a gloomy, sinister, frightening theme.  The expression of obvious, aggressive female sexuality was rather striking, considering the time, when they were painted. These two paintings, as the grandson said, would have been just as extreme and outrageous for the National Socialists as Max Beckmanns paintings. In comparison, Beckmann´s “ Parisian Carnival”, which was also included in the Degenerate Art Exhibition, likewise shows female promiscuity. This painting is just as constructed and theatrical with extreme colour scheme as the “Salome” painting. Looking at the two works in Max Bergmann’s studio, you got a feeling that he artist was perhaps not quite the artist that Hitler perceived him to be.  Most of his landscape and animal works were done in an impressionist style, mainly because of the influence from Paris. He also confirmed that his grandfather publicly remained with his well-known impressionist style, which he exhibited in Haus der Kunst, but kept, during the time, when artists were in danger of having their works confiscated, the more extreme and expressionist paintings hidden from the authorities. During the 1930s and until the end of the War Bergmann continued to paint as the Nazis wanted. This was for financial reasons and to secure that he and his family were left in peace. The Nazi party approved of him as an artist because they did not know about his private works, and because he was already been included in the Große Kunstausstellung to denote true German art, they never ransacked his home. His grandchild also showed me his sketchbook, which was a present to his father. This sketchbook showed the talent of the artist, he had 500 sketches of characters in restaurants, farm animals and caricatures. It was very interesting to see the environment he painted in how he recorded his experiences and his life of an artist. I also saw photos of Max Bergmann that he was able to sustain a comfortable life during the War as an artist and was able to exhibit and sell his own painting and those of his art students.



CONCLUSION

The reason why Max Bergmann he was never thoroughly investigated by the Nazis, although the farming community of Haimhausen apparently found the wild parties and the nude models running around outside, rather outrageous, was that his landscape paintings had got a certain status in promoting the true Völkish tradition. In contrast, Max Beckmann was disgraced as a German artist and had to escape to London in order to avoid being arrested and sent to concentration camp. Interestingly, as the grandson mentioned, the paintings of Max Bergmann and Max Beckmann both increased and kept their values also after the War, especially because of the, in our eyes nowadays, controversial cultural politics of the National Socialists. The inclusion of  “Frühling” as true to German, Aryan values and the “Tanzbar” as dangerous, subversive and degenerate for the German spirit, secured the fame and value of both artists until our present day. It also means that the Nazi labelling of art is not effective. They selected art which did not adhere to classical or traditional moral valued, using the two contrasting exhibitions in 1937 purely for furthering their own apology for exterminate what they saw as threatening to Germany. It is nice to see, however, that the artistic spirit, in both Max Beckmann´s case, who continued his work abroad, and in the case of Max Bergmann, who like Emil Nolde, continued his passionate work in secrecy, cannot be broken by any political censorship.













Peter-Klaus Schuster: “Die “Kunststadt” München 1937, Nationalsocialismus und Entartete Kunst”, Prestel Verlag 1987



Steve Barron: “Degenerate Art, the Fate of the Avantgarde in Nazi Germany,” Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1991



Birgit Schurerth: Geniewahn: Hitler und die Kunst, Böhlau 2009



George Heard Hamilton: “Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880 to 1940”, Pelican 1983



Royal Academy of Arts: “German Art in the 20th Century” Prestel Verlag  1985



Stephen Lackner: “Max Beckmann”, Dumont 1979



Wilhelm Weber: “Max Bergmann”, Pfälzer Kunst, 1984


House of German Art (Haus der Deutschen Kunst)

The House of German Art was described by Hitler as "the first beautiful building of the new Reich" and "a temple for genuine and eternal German art." In designing the structure in 1933, Hitler already revealed his plan for eventual war by providing for an air raid shelter in the basement. Irreverent locals nicknamed the building "the Athens railway station" and "a sausage stand."
Troost's original plans
How Prinzregentstrasse was intended to look, with the Bavarian Prime Minister's residence in the background
Troost and Hitler in front of a model of the building in 1933
Josef Wilk's Porträt Prof. Troost showing the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in the background, now at the Deutsches Historisches Museum. Behind is Adolf Wissel's Kahlenberger Bauernfamilie which had been included in the Großen Deutschen Kunstausstellung of 1939 at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst : Farm Family From Kahlenberg.
Golden model presented by Hermann Göring to Hitler on the latter's 50th birthday

Hitler viewing the progress on the construction of the House of German Art with architects Professor Gall and Albert Speer. The right shows the plaque engraved on bronze over the entrance reading "Die Kunst ist eine erhabene und zum Fanatismus Verpflichtende Mission" (Art is an Ennobling Mission Demanding Fanaticism).
The Haus der Deutschen Kunst ("House of German Art") at Prinzregentenstrasse 1 was constructed from 1934 to 1937 following plans of architect Paul Ludwig Troost as the Third Reich's first monumental propaganda building. Its inaugural exhibition was the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung ("Great German art exhibition"), which was intended as an edifying contrast to the concurrent Entartete Kunst exhibition.
Numerous activities were scheduled for that day, such as a procession through town depicting “2,000 years of German culture.” In the presence of the Führer, a performance of Tristan und Isolde in the Munich National Theatre opened the festivities. The dedication of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in the Prinzregentenstrasse took place on July 19. Hitler had laid the cornerstone there in 1933. The new building was to serve as a replacement for the old “Glass Palace,” that had been an art gallery located at the old Botanical Garden. In former times, art collections had been exhibited in the building until it had been completely destroyed by a fire in 1931. The opening of an art exhibition complemented the dedication of the new building. The Essential Hitler (489)
 Hitler at the official cornerstone laying October 15, 1933

Hitler and Himmler at the opening, 1937
Hitler formally opened the ”House of German Art” in Munich in a drab, pseudoclassic building which he had helped design and which he described as ”unparalleled and inimitable” in its architecture. In this first exhibition of Nazi art were crammed some nine hundred works, selected from fifteen thousand submitted, of the worst junk this writer has ever seen in any country. Hitler himself made the final selection and, according to some of the party comrades who were with him at the time, had become so incensed at some of the paintings accepted by the Nazi jury presided over by Adolf Ziegler, a mediocre painter who was president of the Reich Chamber of Art, that he had not only ordered them thrown out but had kicked holes with his jack boot through several of them. ”I was always determined,” he said in a long speech inaugurating the exhibition, ”if fate ever gave us power, not to discuss these matters [of artistic judgement] but to make decisions.” And he had made them. In his speech – it was delivered on July 18, 1937 – he laid down the Nazi line for ”German art”:
Works of art that cannot be understood but need a swollen set of instructions to prove their right to exist and find their way to neurotics who are receptive to such stupid or insolent nonsense will no longer openly reach the German nation. Let no one have illusions! National Socialism has set out to purge the German Reich and our people of all those influences threatening its existence and character . . . With the opening of this exhibition has come the end of artistic lunacy and with it the artistic pollution of our people . . .


Hitler speaking at the opening of the third "Great German Art Exhibition" July 16, 1939 in the Ehrenhalle. From 1937 until 1944, the hall was used exclusively for opening exhibitions and holding press conferences, and every year the Nazis would meet here for the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung. It was Hitler who had determined that  the plinths and the wall and pillar covering of the three-nave sky-lit hall should be clad in blood-red marble from Tegernsee.  The omnipresence of the colour red, so prominent on the Nazi flag, served to reinforce the ubiquity of the National Socialist world view.

Hitler speaking in the Ehrenhalle July 18, 1937, and the site today
Exhibition from the time of the Third Reich and now, featuring "Svayambh," a gigantic sculpture by Anish Kapoor; the gallery now displays anything but German art. Leaning against a wall displaying the history of the building inside is the dedication to the gallery's original sponsors which used to feature much more prominently.

One artist honoured at the Haus der Kunst was Ai Wei Wei, an artist who knows only too well the constant threat of living under a capricious, totalitarian regime.

Then and now, photoshopped on the right with Hitler giving his speech at the opening, in which he expressed his great satisfaction that he, and not his political opponents, had erected the building:
In 1931, the National Socialist takeover was still so far off in the distant future that there was no way of foreseeing the construction of a new exhibition palace for the Third Reich. In fact, for a while it did seem as though the “men of November” would provide an edifice for the exhibition of art in Munich that would have had as little to do with German art as it, conversely, reflected the Bolshevist affairs and circumstances of their time. Many of you perhaps still recall the plans for that building that was intended for the old Botanical Garden that has now been given such a beautiful design. A building quite difficult to define. An edifice that could just as easily have been a Saxon thread factory as the market hall of a mid-sized city—or perhaps a train station, or then again even an indoor swimming pool. I need not press upon you how I suffered at the thought back then that the first misfortune would be fol- lowed by yet another. And that therefore, in this case in particular, I was truly glad, really happy about the faint-hearted lack of determination on the part of my political opponents at the time. In it lay the only chance of ultimately saving the erection of a palace for art exhibitions in Munich to become the first great undertaking of the Third Reich.
After the war, the building was used by the American occupation forces as an officer's mess; in that time, the building came to be known as the "P1", a shortening of its street address. The building's origins can still be seen such as in regards to the swastika-motif mosaics in the ceiling panels of its front portico.
"The New Age: Sacrifice, Faith and Loyalty" section during the July 18, 1937 "Two Thousand Years of German Culture" parade.
Excerpt from Nazi propaganda film of the summer 1939 German Art Festival in Munchen. On 15 and 16 October 1939, the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung inside the Haus der Deutschen Kunst was complemented by the monumental Tag der deutschen Kunst celebration of "2,000 years of Germanic culture" where luxuriously and pretentiously draped floats (one of them carrying a 5 meter tall golden Nazi Reichsadler) and thousands of actors in historical costumes paraded down Prinzregentenstraße for hours in the presence of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, Robert Ley, Reinhard Heydrich, and many other other high-ranking Nazis, with minor events taking place in the Englischer Garten nearby.
Some stills from the film:


Images from the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung in 1939 and 1940.
Hitler speaking inside the so-called "Ehrenhalle" [Hall of Honour] at the official opening of the third "Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung" July 16, 1939.

At the opening on July 16, 1939
One of the large exhibition halls of the "Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung" 1940

Rooms 22, 2 and 31
 
Porträt des Führers by Fritz Erler, 1939 and the interior today

Hilter at the Opening in 1940; the picture on the wall is Hans Happ’s Die Frucht der Erde and the sculpture on the right is Hans Plangger’s Abschied. Hitler would make a reappearance in Maurizio Cattelan's Him at the Haus der Kunst in 2003.
. Now a publicly accessible online archive of the images displayed reveals the full extent of the Nazi aesthetic -- and includes details about who bought which work of art.
Joseph Goebbels's speech at the opening of the 1941 art exhibition at the Haus der Kunst
Footage and Documentaries relating to Art and its importance to Hitler and the Third Reich:
Tag der Deutschen Kunst (1939)
German Art- In the Shadow of Hitler
Hitler's Art War- Provocative and engaging lecture by Godfrey Barker

The Prinz-Carl-Palais
 
Prince Carl-Palais is the official residence of the Bavarian Prime Minister; here German president Paul von Hindenburg and Prime Minister Heinrich Held leave the palace, 12 August 1925.
Hitler at the opening of the House of German Art with the the Prinz-Carl-Palais in the background, where Mussolini stayed in 1938 during the Munich Conference. Mussolini came here for the last time on September 18, 1943 after being rescued four days earlier in a remarkable coup de main at the Gran Sasso where il Duce had been interned at a mountain hotel, and brought to Germany.
Mussolini was brought to the Prince Carl Palace in Munich, from where he addressed the Italian people in a radio address that evening. During Hitler’s years of triumph in 1937 and 1938, Mussolini had always set up quarters at the Prince Carl Palace. But his speech now lacked the enthusiasm of earlier years. Mussolini cared about only one thing, his mistress Clara Petacci. He would not rest until Hitler finally had ϟϟ Obergruppenführer Sepp Dietrich bring her from Italy.
As seen from the photo from 1937, the reichsadler that had been added during the regime has been removed without any trace. In 1924 this became the residence of the Bavarian Prime Ministers.
 Surrounded by destruction in 1948
 
Hofgartenarkaden


Donald Kuspit, discussing the ‘Entarte (sic) Kunst’ exhibition of 1937, has suggested that Hitler ‘had a vested interest in repression’ and a corresponding wish to exalt clear and unified images over those requiring debate and textual exegesis, and which therefore introduced the possibility of uncertainty. Hitler’s own words on this exhibition reveal a wish to erect a barrier between image and text: ‘Works of art that cannot be understood but need a swollen set of instructions to prove their right to exist...will no longer openly reach the German nation.’ When ‘art’ becomes propaganda, then image and text are not required to explain each other, but instead to participate in a mutual objectification.
In front of the former site of the 'Exhibition of Degenerate Art' which had officially opened July 19, 1937 at the same time with the first large one German art exhibition in the House of German art.
 According to William Shirer, the exhibition was an humiliating failure:
In another part of the city in a ramshackle gallery that had to be reached through a narrow stairway was an exhibition of ”degenerate art” which Dr. Goebbels had organised to show the people what Hitler was rescuing them from. It contained a splendid selection of modern paintings – Kokoschka, Chagall and expressionist and impressionist works. The day I visited it, after panting through the sprawling House of German Art, it was crammed, with a long line forming down the creaking stairs and out into the street. In fact, the crowds besieging it became so great that Dr. Goebbels, incensed and embarrassed, soon closed it.
In fact, Frederic Spotts argues the complete opposite:
In a mere two weeks between 600 and 700 works from around Germany were seized, dispatched to Munich and hung. The show opened on 19 July 1937 with some 650 works by 112 'art stutterers' from thirty-two public museums on display. It included examples from all the major schools of German painting and sculpture- Expressionism, Verism, Abstraction, Bauhaus, Dada, New Objectivity- and all the major artists. Although he had inspected the collection beforehand, Hitler did not deign to put in a public appearance once the exhibition opened. But he inaugurated it vicariously the day before in a raging speech. '...The end of madness in German art and, with it, the cultural destruction of our people has begun,' he proclaimed. 'From this moment we shall conduct a merciless war against the remnants of our cultural disintegration.' On he sputtered, reviling 'the cliques of chatterboxes, dilettantes and art swindlers.'
Like enemy prisoners being thrown to the lions in the Colosseum, the victims were to be seen and mocked by the crowd before being consumed. The show was deigned to demonstrate that Modernist art was not simply ugly, indecent and deranged but that it also directly assaulted traditional social mores by disparaging motherhood, military heroism, religion and whatever was healthy, clean and chaste.Hitler's criteria- post1910 German works- were generally followed, though stretched to include such adoptive Germans as Chagall and Jawlensky, and two non-Germans., Mondrian and Munch. The work by the good Nordic Munch caused such ideological indigestion that after a few days the room where it hung was closed. The paintings, presented in a way to heighten ridicule, were not so much displayed as plastered helter-skelter on the walls, though this may have resulted partly from the haste with which the show was assembled. To leave no doubt about their iniquity, the works were labelled with such propagandistic slogans as 'madness becomes a method', 'nature as seen by sick minds' and 'a insult to German womanhood.' Ensuring that no one could have the slightest doubt about the iniquity of the works, it is said that actors were sent to the exhibit to make raucous fun of what they saw.
It was the biggest blockbuster show of all time. Hitler ordered that entry should be without charge and encouraged the public to attend. And attend it did. One million people went in the first six weeks alone and more than two million in the remaining six months in Munich. Another million or so saw the exhibition when it travelled to twelve other cities between February 1938 and April 1941. By all accounts spectators went to bury, not to praise. 'It became increasingly obvious to me that most people had come to see the exhibition with the intention of disliking everything,' it was later commented. Some non-Nazis, some non-Germans also applauded. A Boston art critic commented, 'There are probably plenty of people- art lovers- in Boston, who will side with Hitler in this particular purge.' The Fuehrer was enormously pleased with the popular response. It appeared to prove his point that Modernism was an elitist phenomenon that had lost meaning for the great mass of the public. It further seemed to support his belief in 'the people as the judge of art.' So gratified was he, in fact, that at his direction a pamphlet with illustrations of the works accompanied by hostile commentary was published and widely circulated. He had achieved his purpose. The event was a stunning demonstration of his power to crush what he opposed. In so doing, he brought to an end the most exciting school of painting and sculpture in modern German history.
 Amongst those attacked are the sculptures shown here by Marg Moll, Otto Braun, Eugen Hoffmann and Rudolf Belling;
 The 'Dada Wall'
In the foreground left: Marg Moll's 'Tänzerin' (Dancer, around 1930) and in the foreground on the right: Otto Baum, 'Stehendes Mädchen' (Standing Girl, 1930)
The Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin has a miniature recreation of the exhibition's layout, from our 2013 school trip

In a Rediscovered Trove of Art, a Triumph Over the Nazis’ Will

However,  the 1938 law that allowed the Nazis to seize thousands of other Modernist artworks deemed “degenerate” because Hitler viewed them as un-German or Jewish in nature remains on the books to this day.