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Friday, February 7, 2014

German Art

The House of German Art, Munich, 1933-37
About seventy-five years ago, a German government official, in dedicating a new art museum (above), proclaimed:
"To be German is to be clear," and that means that to be German is to be logical and true. It is this spirit which has always lived in our people, which has inspired painters, sculptors, architects, thinkers, poets, and above all our musicians. So today there is not a German or a French art, 'but a "modern art." This is to reduce art to the level of fashions in dress, with the motto "Every year something fresh"--Impressionism, Futurism, Cubism, perhaps also Dadaism. These newly created art phrases would be comic, if they were not tragic."

"But true art is and remains eternal, it does not follow the law of the season's fashions: its effect is that of a revelation arising from the depths of the essential character of a people which successive generations can inherit. But those who do not create for eternity do not readily talk of eternities: they seek to dim the radiance of these giants who reach out of the past into the future in order that contemporaries may discover their own tiny flames."

"These facile daubers in art are but the products of a day: yesterday, non-existent: today, modern: tomorrow, out of date. Theirs was a small art--small in form and substance--and at the same time intolerant of the masters of the past and the rivals of the present. It was only an attraction that these works of art were difficult to understand and on that account very costly: no one wished to admit lack of comprehension or insufficient means! And if one does not oneself understand, probably one's neighbor will not either, and he will admire one's comprehension of obscurity. This House of German Art is designed for the art of the German people--not for an international art."
This came from a debate forum on immigration reform just a few days ago:
"You have two choices going forward. Secession or Civil War. I am good with either one as I live in the southern part of the nation. The part with the food, energy, manufacturing and conservatives. No reason to stay with Liberals. Let them have their states without us to tax to death to pay for their conscience raising crap. Take away all the money from the conservatives states and liberals will be over run with their moochers who will kill them. Make welfare illegal. In a free state and you would clear out all the moochers who would run to an Obamaland. Again liberals would die. Real Americans just need to decide when they are ready and understand we do not need them they need us! For heaven sake people. If nothing else read Atlas Shrugged if you want to see the direction this nation is headed and what YOU can do about it."
Zeichnung-kirche-in-Ardoye-in-flandern, 1917,
Adolph Hitler--more architect than artist.
The first quotation came from a speech by Adolph Hitler. The Second, by someone using the moniker rmiller. Notice any similarities as to thought patterns? Actually, Hitler was someone who knew a bit about art from his younger days as an amateur watercolorist (left) attempting to gain entry into the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna (which rejected him twice). During those days, Vienna was a hotbed of racial and religious prejudice fed by fears of being overrun by immigrants from the East. Despite this, in rereading the two quotations, it would seem Hitler was the less radical of the two, in words, if not in deeds. In both cases, however, the words are the result of fear and resentment. Both writers feared a foreign cultural invasion and resented sharing their national identity with those fleeing their own. The difference is, Hitler was in a position to do something about it. Let's hope rmiller, whoever that might be, is not.
The Judgment of Paris, 1870, Anselm Feuerbach---typical of Hitler's taste in painting.
Anselm Feuerbach, Self-portrait,
Adolph Hitler considered himself an expert connoisseur of painting and architecture. He favored art and artists who were literal, Aryan, sensual (often erotic) and conveyors of the best German culture had to offer in painting, sculpture, literature, motion pictures, and, as he mentions, especially music. One of Hitler's favorite painters, Anselm Feuerbach (left), painted The Judgment of Paris (above). As his rant above, and his 1937 traveling art exhibit, "Degenerate Art" would indicate, he hated Impressionism, Fauvism, Symbolism, Futurism, Cubism, and Dadaism (quite popular in Germany at the time), especially if the artists were Russian or Jewish. His rĂ©gime worked to stamp out Modernism as surely and as viciously as it worked to stamp out Jews. In the area of music, Jazz was an anathema. Wagner was in, Satchmo was out.
World Capital Germania (scale model), 1940, Albert Speer

The Four Elements, Adolph Ziegler,
Hitler's study in the Reich Chancellery.
Albert Speer designed the interior. 
Architecturally, Hitler's Third Reich was Neo-classical through and through, his favorite architects being Paul Ludwig Troost, who designed Munich's House of German Art (top). From the past, he liked Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who had designed the Old Museum in Berlin (1825-28). And most importantly, there was First Architect of the Third Reich, Albert Speer. When Paul Troost died in 1934, Speer became one of Hitler's closest friends and confidants. They were something of kindred spirits, both megalomaniacal in terms of their architectural vision of a new Berlin. Speer's designs, such as the World Capital Germania (above) with its spectacular scale models remained just that. Inasmuch as there was a war on, few of his designs were ever built. He did, however, facilitate the refurbishing of the Reich Chancellery to Hitler's formal, highly conservative decorating tastes in 1939. The building was heavily damaged in the fall of Berlin and demolished after the war.

Hitler's alter ego.
Convicted of war crimes during the Nuremberg Trials, Speer served his entire twenty-year sentence, becoming the last and only prisoner in Germany's Spandau Prison. No building of his design remains in Berlin and only a few interiors survive elsewhere. While in prison, Speer wrote several books on his life and times as part of the Third Reich, his work providing perhaps the most intimate inside peek at the artist/architect/madman for whom he worked. Speer died in 1981 at the age of seventy-six, the last vestige of the art and architecture of the Third Reich.

Hitler's office, interior by Albert Speer.

Speer's main entrance to the
Reich Chancellery, 1939


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