Examine the impact of the Nazi regime upon architecture and art in Germany.
In the 1920’s Germany was a center for modern art and forward-thinking architecture. Art styles and schools such as cubism and Dada developed in Germany, and schools of excellent architecture such as the Bauhaus school developed in this liberal and free-thinking period. However, this all changed in1933 due to the rise to power of the Nazis. This essay will examine the effect that the Nazi regime had upon the styles of art and architecture in Germany during their rule.
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The Nazis believed that art and architecture would be an important factor in the large propaganda operation they planned to operate. Once Nazis came to power they took control of society and began to spread their influence to many different art forms. These include theatre, architecture, fine art, sculpture, and photography.
Soon after the Nazis came to power they began to exert their influence over art forcing their preferred styles to be adopted. The preferred styles chosen by the Nazis were based on Hitler’s taste. Hitler saw himself as an art connoisseur and an architecture expert. This was due to his background and everlasting wish to become a professional architect.
This exertion of influence by the Nazis and the mass book burning ordered by propaganda minister Josef Goebbels in 1933 served as a warning to many artists that their work would not be welcome in the “new” Germany. This led to a mass exodus of artistic talent from Germany to many other countries such as France and the USA. It was in this way that Germany was culturally purged of all but a few talented artists who specialized in the styles of art that were preferred by the Nazis left.
After the book burning the Nazi’s next step toward changing Germany’s art was to “cleanse” all of her art galleries of any art which was not to the Nazi’s liking. The styles of art disliked by the Nazis were modern art because they believed that they could not be liked by the masses because they had no clear message. The Nazis also believed that modern art was “foreign”. Art which was disliked by the Nazis was referred to as degenerate and decadent.
Soon after the Nazis came to power they created a Reich Chamber of Art. This had to approve all artists before they could do any work within Germany. They also had the power to forbid artists from teaching, exhibiting, and painting at all. These powers were enforced by the Gestapo who carried out random checks on artists.
The Nazis were very clear on which styles of art they liked. These were the classical styles copied from the ancient Romans and the ancient Greeks. The Nazis also favored Renaissance art because it projected the same messages like those of the Greeks and Romans. The reason that these styles were preferred was that they seemed to reflect a traditional period of great and strong empires. The creation of a strong and mighty empire containing the whole of Europe like that created by the Romans was something, which the Nazis were striving towards. Usually, however, the Nazis were not satisfied with the pieces from the Greco-Roman era and sought to exaggerate them, sometimes to ludicrous extremes.
Notable artists and pieces included Thorak’s sculptures destined for the pediment of the Nazi party headquarters. The male figures in this piece are, with most German art from this period strong, muscular, masculine, and representative of the ideal Aryan form. As with most art of this type the figures are nude, this is to show their “ideal” forms. The overall scale of this piece was massive to reflect the supposed grandeur and prestige of the Nazi regime.
Breker’s “Comrades” is another notable piece from the era. This like Thorak’s sculptures also depicted males in the same manner. The masculinity of the figures in the piece is portrayed by the depiction of the men as heroic warriors. They are almost exaggerated to become God-like in form. Again the social and political message of this piece like the piece created by Thorak is tied in with the classical style and its association with empire, conquest, and civilization.
Women were depicted differently from men in the popular pictures of Nazi Germany. This was due to their different role in Germany’s society. Ivo Salinger’s “Diana’s Rest” is an example of the Nazis’ view towards women. The picture like the pieces by Breker and Thorak depict the Nazis’ ideal form of women. This for women was of a perfect childbearing form because that was what the Nazis’ believed a woman’s role to be.
The Nazis also approved of pictures, which showed the cult of rural life. This was because the rural life symbolized a time before industrialization and because the Nazis saw country labor as the most honest form of work. “The Sower” by Martin-Amabach was one type of rural painting it served as a reminder to the German people of their agrarian past and the natural beauty of the countryside. In contrast pictures of urban or industrial life were shunned by the Nazis because of its links with trade unions and communism.
Overall however the most common form of paintings in Nazi Germany was landscape paintings. This was because artists who did not wish to support the Nazi regime yet could not afford to not paint, painted landscapes as they held no overall political message and the artists felt they were not furthering the Nazi cause in this way.
Architecture in Nazi Germany followed many of the same patterns as art. The popular architecture was like popular art, copied from the Greco-Roman empires. Also, like art, Hitler had a passion for architecture, which stemmed from drawing pictures of notable pieces of architecture in Vienna during his youth. Hitler despised modern architecture like modern art. His favorite styles were classical and he admired architects and town planners such as Baron Hausman who had been responsible for the rebuilding of Paris.
Hitler had a plan to rebuild Berlin after the Second World War into the glorious capital of his new empire. To complete this task he employed the talents of his personal architect Albert Speer. Speer was a very gifted architect whose previous work had pleased Hitler. The plan was to create a Berlin into a new capital renamed Germania. The centerpiece of this city would be the monumental “People Hall” which would fit an audience of 150,000. Leading up to the “People Hall” Hitler and Speer planned to create a huge central avenue over three miles long ideal for parades and marches.
The vast scale of this project was intended to humble the world and show them the supreme power of the Nazi regime and Hitler’s power of it. The buildings were also meant to stand for many generations as a long-term reminder of the “glory of Hitler’s thousand-year Reich”.
In conclusion, it can be seen that the Nazi regime had an immeasurable impact on art and architecture. Not only did they cause the expulsion of a vast amount of talent from Germany they also tainted the artist potential of many German during the 1930s and the 1940s because of their insistence on certain styles and types of art.
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