The history of German art of the last fifteen years is the story of the undoing of that high level of taste and figurative culture, in a plan of European values, which was created in Germany in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Expressionism, the abstractionism of W. Kandinskij, P. Klee, F. Marc and L. Feininger and the Bauhaus of W. Gropius (which arose in a German environment despite the different nationalities of their supporters), are among the most live contemporary art. The advent of Nazism (1933) marks the collapse of German art. The Nazi ideology, aimed at racial and nationalistic myths, condemns en bloc, under the accusation of “degenerate art” (entartete Kunst) or Jewish or Bolshevizing or internationalist, all the best contemporary production: the works are removed from public places, often destroyed; the perpetrators, persecuted, are forced to emigrate or are forbidden to operate. The Nazi arts policy culminated in the speech that Hitler gave on July 18, 1937, inaugurating the House of German Art and the Great German Art Exhibition in Munich, while at the same time the Degenerate Art Exhibition was taking place where works by almost everyone were on display. major artists: E. Barlach, M. Beckmann, O. Dix, Germany Grosz, C. Hofer, W. Kandinskij, EL Kirchner, P. Klee, O. Kokoschka, W. Lehmbruck, F. Marc, E. Nolde, etc.
Having affirmed the concept that art is determined by race, Hitler condemned cubism, futurism and expressionism as a whole because they did not express the sense of health, physical beauty and strength of the German race and called the people to judge them. In November of the same year Goebbels reiterated these points, also declaring that, even in the field of art, the only arbiter was the state. Almost all the artists had already emigrated abroad. Among the expressionists Germany Grosz, the most opposed for his political faith and the ferocity of his satire, left Germany even before the advent of Nazism, in 1932, and moved to the USA, where, outside the red-hot climate of interests and social conflicts which justified the violence of his expression, conceded much to the current American taste; M. Beckmann took refuge in Amsterdam in 1937; O. Kokoschka, against whose works the persecution of the Nazis had been particularly fierce, took refuge in Czechoslovakia, and, when the Sudetenland were invaded in 1938, in London. W. Gropius emigrated in 1933, first to London and then to America and with him the former members of the Bauhaus: J. Albers (1933), L. Moholy-Nagy (1935) and H. Bayer (1938), also in the US, where the New Bauhaus was built in Chicago. From the abstract group P. Klee took refuge in Bern in 1933, W. Kandinsky in Paris in 1935, L. Feininger returned to New York in 1936. The artists who remained were persecuted.
Instead, a naturalistic and academic art is encouraged, which exalts the myths of earth, blood and struggle: it finds its official manifestations in the Darmstadt exhibitions and its most consequent representatives in the sculptors Arno Brecker – author of the rhetorical bronze statues of the Reichskanzlei in Berlin – and Josef Torak (for the production of his clumsy giants a huge studio is built at the expense of the state) and in the painter Adolf Ziegler, president of the Reichskunstkammer. In architecture, the lucid rationalism of W. Gropius and L. Mies Van der Rohe (who also emigrated to the US) is replaced by a stylized neoclassicism, of which Hitler himself, together with his architect Paul Ludwig Troost, gives the foundations in the House of
With the collapse of the Nazi ideology, Germany seems to be returning with interest to its “degenerate art” to re-unite the ranks of an interrupted development. Exhibitions of the greatest exponents of Expressionism (M. Beckmann, C. Hofer, E. Nolde, etc.) took place in 1946 and 1947 in many cities of Germany; in the summer of 1947 – ten years after the “degenerate art exhibition” – a large exhibition of the “Resistance” (Deutsche Kunst seit 1933) was set up at the Kunsthalle in Bern, where the work was documented of those artists, particularly the younger ones, who, during the Nazis in Germany, had not followed the official address.