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nazi art as propaganda
Nazi Germany regulated and controlled the art produced between 1933 and 1945 to ensure they embodied the values they wished to indoctrinate into the German people. The notion of ‘volk’ (people) and ‘blut und boden’ (soil and blood) was championed in paintings to glorify an idealized rural Germany and instill a sense of ‘superiority’ in the Nordic physicality. Highly veristic and asthetisized works romanticized everyday subjects and reiterated redundant stereotyped Nazi ideals of the human body and its purposes in the Reich. Paintings of Adolf Hitler valorized and his image to heroic status, even to the extent of deification, elevating him to a god-like status. By promoting Hitler as superior to the average person, the artist made Hitler a mythological being who, if followed with unconditional religious piety, would lead the Germanic race to an ideal future. The architecture, or so-called ‘ideology in stone’, was also a vessel for political ideology. The monumental buildings served to construct a pseudo-history to authenticate the stable, strong and righteous nature of the ‘thousand year Reich’. Thus, art in the Third Reich was merely a form of propaganda that insidiously promoted the superiority of the Nordic race, the need for loyalty and obedience and the invulnerability of the German nation.
Images of the Nordic peasant endorsed a return to a pre-industrial idyllic rural Germany. The oil painting ‘Kalenberg Farm Family’, by Adolf Wissel, depicts an intimate domestic situation of a family relaxing, presumably after a day of ‘working the land’, in a tranquil natural setting. It is an easily accessible work, that the Dadaist Duchamp would label ‘retinal art’, as it is an aesthetically motivated and stylistically anti-modernist piece. The rich warm colours are inviting, serving to emphasize the serenity and timelessness of the scene. The composition is extremely ordered, controlled, and dignified, there is no indication of social unrest under the rule of the Third Reich, it is an ideal Utopia where the every day person a subject worthy of intense interest. This is a blatant celebration of the virtues of a simple rural life (that in reality did not exist) as it presents the family in such positive and reverent way, a stereotyped ‘perfect’ standard for German families to aspire to. This was an extremely popular subject as indicated by the multitudes of paintings that were similar in genre, for example ‘Rest During the Harvest’ by George Gunter, and ‘Farm Girls returning from the Fields’ by Leopold Schmutzter. Hitler said that art should be the ‘expressions of the soul and ideals of the community’ and these painting certainly do present the ideals of life that the National Socialists chose to privilege. These values in turn, like a circulatory motion encouraged the feelings and values of the German people who saw it, by instilling a sense of national pride in a wholesome and righteous life dictated by the Nazi values.
Nazi ideology is also illustrated by ‘Ploughing’, by Julius Paul Junghan; this is more specifically linked to the notion of ‘blood and soil’. A person who works with the land achieves a spiritual unity with it, so that they become a part of the natural world and integral to both the continuances of its fertility and yours. The painting displays this ancient German ideology that was appropriated and extended by the Nazis to rationalize the policy of Lebensraum or ‘living space’ so that the superior Nordic race could control over and order the land of other inferior nations. The oil landscape painting depicts a man reigning three sturdy workhorses with an archaic plow. The eyes are drawn from the three horses to the ‘intellectual’ force behind the action with sweeping converging lines, thus ploughing the land is a collective action, shared between farmer and animal, working towards a better field, or in symbolic terms a better Germany. Again a highly romanticized image of life entwined with nature is presented to manipulate the viewer, it forces them to connect hard work to achieve a collective goal (plowing the soil ready for planting) with moral righteousness. This theme is reiterated repeatedly almost to exhaustion in such works as ‘Ploughing in the Evening’ by Willy Jackel, and ‘The Sower’ by Oskar Martin-Ambach. The Nazi ideals are embodied more implicitly in ‘Ploughing’ than ‘Kalenburg Farm Family’, as on a
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Politics, Nationalism, Nazi Germany, Nazism, Adolf Hitler, Fascism, Antisemitism, Nazi propaganda, Art of the Third Reich, Blood and Soil, Lebensraum, Fhrer
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