To Flee or Not to Flee?

During the time of Nazi power, Hitlers distaste for modernist art led for him to target specific artists and  who did not conform to his beliefs of what art should look like or portray. Artists work had to be approved by the government and invited to join the Reich Chamber of Culture, but if their work was too satirical or modernist, they were prohibited from buying materials in order to paint, from teaching, and  from exhibiting any of their works. Other artists or designers who the Nazi party approved of were asked to work for them to further publicise their campaigns. If the government didn’t approve of the work that an artists was producing, they had only three options. Either accept that they had to conform the Nazi conditions, prepare for a life that did not involve producing any artwork, or flee the country. As you can imagine, all three of these options would be very difficult to succumb to. Many great artists such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and George Grosz fled to places such as Switzerland, Paris and America where their work continued to prove very influential to the modernist movement.

hitler art

A piece painted by Adolf Hitler that reflected his non-modernist  tastes.

Many people, myself included, have great respect for these artists. They gave up their whole lives, families, friends and homes in order to preserve their integrity and not bow down to Hitlers small-minded tastes. It is greatly inspirational that these artists, including many others, stood by what they believed in and managed to shake the grasp that the Nazi government held. Left with so few options, this must have proved one of the most difficult decisions to face. It makes you wonder, what if Hitler had allowed for these artists to continue their careers in Germany? How many works of artists did he suppress that could have proved extremely inspirational and important to future movements? And how different would history have been if Hitler had first succeeded as an artist himself?


Lectures By Donna Leishman


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