Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany

The term "degenerate" was adopted by the Nazis as part of its campaign against modern art. Many works branded as such were seized from museums and private collections,and a three-year traveling exhibition crisscrossed Germany and Austria to put this art on display. Afterward most works were sold, lost, or presumed destroyed. Curator Olaf Peters talks about the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937” exhibition at the Neue Galerie. The show includes works by Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Ernst Luwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, and Emil Nolde, among others. It includes approximately 50 paintings and sculptures, 30 works on paper, and several posters, as well as photographs and other memorabilia. One room will contrast so-called "Degenerate Art" with officially sanctioned art of the period, including works shown at the 1937 "Great German Art Exhibition" in Munich. The exhibition is on view at the Neue Galerie March 13–June 30, 2014.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938). A Group of Artists (The Painters of the Brücke), 1925-26. Oil on canvas, 66 1/8 x 49 5/8 in. (168 x 126 cm). Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938). A Group of Artists (The Painters of the Brücke), 1925-26. Oil on canvas, 66 1/8 x 49 5/8 in. (168 x 126 cm). Museum Ludwig, Cologne

From the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” on view at the Neue Galerie through June 30, 2014.

( Photo: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Cologne )
Lasar Segall (1891-1957). Eternal Wanderers, 1919. Oil on canvas, 54 3/8 x 72 ½ in. (138 x 184 cm). Lasar Segall Museum, IBRAM/Ministry of Culture
Lasar Segall (1891-1957). Eternal Wanderers, 1919. Oil on canvas, 54 3/8 x 72 ½ in. (138 x 184 cm). Lasar Segall Museum, IBRAM/Ministry of Culture

From the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” on view at the Neue Galerie through June 30, 2014.

( Photo: Jorge Bastos )
Ernst Barlach (1870-1937). The Beserker, 1910. Bronze, 21 ½ x 28 7/8 x 10 3/8 in. (54.5 x 73.4 x 26.4 cm).
Ernst Barlach (1870-1937). The Beserker, 1910. Bronze, 21 ½ x 28 7/8 x 10 3/8 in. (54.5 x 73.4 x 26.4 cm).

From the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” on view at the Neue Galerie through June 30, 2014.

( © Ernst Barlach Haus – Stiftung Hermann F. Reemtsma, Hamburg )
Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980). Poster with Self-Portrait for Der Sturm magazine, 1910. Colored lithograph, 26 3/8 x 17 5/8 in. (67 x 44.7 cm).
Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980). Poster with Self-Portrait for Der Sturm magazine, 1910. Colored lithograph, 26 3/8 x 17 5/8 in. (67 x 44.7 cm).

From the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” on view at the Neue Galerie through June 30, 2014.

( © Neue Galerie New York. Gift of Leonard A. Lauder © 2014 Fondation Oskar Kokoschka/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ProLitteris, Zürich )
Max Beckmann (1884-1950.) Departure, Frankfurt 1932, Berlin 1933-35. Oil on canvas, 84 ¾ x 39 ¼ in. (215.3 x 99.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously (by exchange)
Max Beckmann (1884-1950.) Departure, Frankfurt 1932, Berlin 1933-35. Oil on canvas, 84 ¾ x 39 ¼ in. (215.3 x 99.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously (by exchange)

From the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” on view at the Neue Galerie through June 30, 2014.

Adolf Ziegler (1892-1959) The Four Elements: Fire (left wing), Earth and Water (center panel), Air (right wing), 1937
Adolf Ziegler (1892-1959) The Four Elements: Fire (left wing), Earth and Water (center panel), Air (right wing), 1937

Oil on canvas, 66 7/8 x 106 ¼ in. (170 x 270 cm). Pinakothek der Moderne, Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen, Munich

From the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” on view at the Neue Galerie through June 30, 2014.

( Photo credit: bpk, Berlin/Art Resource, NY )
Paul Klee (1879-1940). The Angler, 1921. Watercolor, transfer drawing and ink on paper, 18 7/8 x 12 3/8 in. (50.5 x 31.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John S. Newberry Collection
Paul Klee (1879-1940). The Angler, 1921. Watercolor, transfer drawing and ink on paper, 18 7/8 x 12 3/8 in. (50.5 x 31.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John S. Newberry Collection

From the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” on view at the Neue Galerie through June 30, 2014.

( Digital Image © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/ Art Resource, NY © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York )
Adolf Hitler and other Nazi officials (Hoffmann, Willrich, Hansen, and Ziegler) standing by the Dada wall at the “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibition, July 16, 1937.
Adolf Hitler and other Nazi officials (Hoffmann, Willrich, Hansen, and Ziegler) standing by the Dada wall at the “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art) exhibition, July 16, 1937.

Paintings by Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Kurt Schwitters have been deliberately hung askew and are accompanied by a slogan penned by George Grosz. This photo was published in the Nationalist Observer, South German (Süddeutsche) issue, No. 199, July 18, 1937. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Germany. bpk, Berlin, Art Resource, NY

From the exhibition “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” on view at the Neue Galerie through June 30, 2014.

of