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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Baker, MA

One Thing Hitler Can Teach Us About Art

Did you know that Hitler banned modern art while he was in power? He declared it was “un-German” and held an exhibition in 1937 called the “Degenerate Art Exhibition” to mock the art and convince viewers to see it as a symptom of an evil plot against German people. The curators even hired actors to mingle with the crowds and criticize the works.

Why did he go to such lengths to slander modern art? Hitler was trying to control people’s perceptions through art. He wanted art to be landscapes, still life, and people who looked a certain way.

What this reveals is an important fact about art: It is a mirror for ourselves as a culture. Art is a reflection and Hitler wanted to control that reflection. He did not want artists visually remarking on the state of horror that was occurring in Nazi Germany.

That is what artists do, they draw, paint and sculpt what is going on around them. And the modern artists of the late 1930’s were telling a story that Hitler didn’t want told. He knew the power of art and did his best to disarm it.

Artists have a crucial role to play during any time period; to show us ourselves. To be a mirror to the larger society. And if we don’t like what we see, something probably needs to be changed.

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