2 Dec

I chose to take German because it was highly recommended for my major. It was an aloof reason, simply another stepping stone to my education, and I originally thought nothing more of it than that. One painting, however, soon changed this mindset:

Die Windsbraut, or The Tempest, by Oksar Kokoschka is one of the hundreds of paintings I learned about in my 20th Century Art class. Despite the plethora of works art history classes are usually injected with, I became instantly drawn to the expressive brushstrokes and emotional agitation of this piece. Ultimately, I fell in love with the German art movement that it became associated with: Die Brucke, translated as The Bridge

Berlin Street Scene, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Mask Still Life, Emil Nolde

Kokoschka was one of many artists that became known for their expressive, often purposely crude style, many times using non-naturalistic colors while still maintaining representative subjects. Inspirations ranged far and wide, from the French fauvists (think Matisse and his painting Joy of Life) to what they called primitive art (think wooden African masks). The founders of Die Brucke were also inspired by German printmakers of the Renaissance Period, like Albrecht Durer.  Something that I read even pointed out that the name of the movement might have suggested a link to the German past and present, therefore implying a sense of nationalism from these artists.

Ironically enough, Adolf Hitler did not see this nationalism at all and included many of these artists in his infamous exhibition Entartete Kunst, or Degenerate Art. To him, artists who created such unrealistic compositions, albeit viewers being capable to distinguish the subject matters,  were physically deformed in the eye and thus subjugated to medical experiments. If this was not the case, then Hitler believed that were implicitly subverting the Nazi regime and were qualified to be taken to prison camp.  It is an unfortunate case that many of these artists thus fled the country.

To me, it is a crazy journey when learning about these German artworks. Without any contextual background, I first see them as interesting compositions with this pretty color or that interesting technique. Only later do I learn about the stories of not only the paintings themselves, but the artists and societies in which they were created in. Thus, I am thankful for learning the language that helps, and continue to help, me do so.



One Response to “”

  1. MV December 9, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    A very interesting post. The Nazis liked the culture to be simple and understandable and it’s main purpose was to glorify the “Aryan Race”

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