Adolf Hitler and Modernism

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

At least that is how I am starting to think about modernism. We are now living in the Age of Modernism. It triumphed after World War II. The free love ideal that anyone should be able to have sex with anyone else without restraint at any time of their choosing is modernist. The idea that you should be able to change your sex or abort your own child for personal freedom reasons is also modernist.

The following excerpt comes from Frederic Spotts excellent book Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics:

“During his first four years in power, Hitler took only one concrete action regarding the visual arts. In June 1933 he received a group of anti-Modernists, including Paul Schultze-Naumburg, who showed him photos of the collection in the Kronprinzen-Palais, a branch of the National Gallery. With some 500 Modernist works, this was the world’s premier museum of the avant-garde. Hitler was suitably outraged and gave orders for the director, Ludwig Justi, to be sacked and the paintings to be removed from display, though ‘not destroyed but preserved in special rooms as monuments of a period of German degeneration.’ With equal amounts of optimism and naivete, gallery officials thought they might get by if they exhibited only the very best of their Modernist works. To do the deed they called in the director of the Halle municipal museum, Alois Schardt, in the hope that his reputation as a promoter of ‘Nordic art’ might appease Nazi critics. Schardt made his choices and, to minimize provocation, tucked them away on the top floor while installing works by Caspar David Friedrich and some of Hitler’s other favourite Romantics on the floors below. The ploy failed. Rust forbade the public to view the collection and fired Schardt, who fled to America. Still adamant, museum officials passed the poisoned cup to Eberhard Hanfstaengl, head of the municipal art collection in Munich. Since he came from conservative southern Germany and was therefore no friend of Modernism, it was hoped that he could offer cover. The new director consigned fifty important paintings to storage but reopened the galleries with a limited selection, still demurely installed in the upper rooms. On this basis the museum continued for several years to exhibit and even to acquire contemporary works.

Strange to say, Hitler visited the collection and even stranger to say did nothing about it. The episode occurred in early 1934 when he went to the museum to see a special exhibition of works by Karl Leipold, a protege of Rudolf Hess. After putting in an appearance there, he insisted on visiting the rest of the museum and eventually came upon the gallery’s avant-garde works. He winced but said nothing. In fact, the visit turned out to be more an architectural field trip. What excited him and provoked his only comment was the vista, visible from the windows of the upper galleries, of Schinkel’s great classical buildings in the centre of Berlin. It was not until nearly two years later that Hitler again raised the subject of the Kronprinzen-Palais collection when at lunch one day he spoke of ‘cleaning out all that rubbish’. But again nothing came of it.

Hitler apparently had his first really good look at Modernist canvases during a visit to Dresden in August 1935 when he toured the local ‘Images of Decadence in Art’ exhibition that had been put together two years earlier. He found the show such an exemplary display of Modernist horrors that he ordered it to tour the country. Several weeks later it went to Nuremberg and was shown in connection with that year’s party rally. The event, along with the subsequent opening of the House of German Art, offered Hitler platforms at last to spell out what he so detested in this ‘cultural perfume’. One trait was its sheer ‘ugliness’: ‘It is not the function of art to wallow in dirt for dirt’s sake, never its task to paint men only in a state of decomposition, to draw cretins as the symbol of motherhood, to picture hunched-backed idiots as representatives of manly strength.’ Linked to this was the perversion of naturalism: ‘There really are men who in principle feel meadows to be blue, the heavens green, clouds sulphur-yellow – or as they prefer to say “experience” them in this way.’ Still another fault was its primitivism: ‘It is either impudent effrontery or incomprehensible stupidity publicly to exhibit today works which ten or twenty thousand years ago might have been made by a man of the Stone Age. They talk of primitive art, but they forget it is not the function of art to go backward …’ Its style was contemptible: ‘Theirs is a small art – small in form and substance – and at the same time intolerant of the masters of the past and the rivals of the present’.

To make matters worse, changes of style were never-ending: ‘Just as in fashions one must wear “modern” clothes whether beautiful or not, so the great masters of the past have been decried. These facile daubers of paint are but the products of a day; yesterday, non-existent; today, modern; tomorrow, out of date.’ Additionally, Modernism lacked national character: ‘Art … was said to be “an international experience,” and so its intimate association with the nation has been stifled; it was said that there was no such thing as the art of a nation or of a race – there was only the art of a certain period’ And it was elitist, without meaning for the general public: ‘An art which cannot count on the readiest and most heartfelt agreement of the great mass of the people, an art which must rely on the support of small cliques, is intolerable.’

Leaving aside personal taste and racism, Hitler spoke true – truer than he knew – in analyzing Modernism and its place in the cultural crisis of the time. Modernists differed significantly in their artistic intentions; avant-garde painters did not always work in the same direction as their counterparts in music, literature or architecture. But by and large Modernists were guilty as charged, even if the prosecution’s case was as exaggerated and contorted as it accused Modernist paintings themselves of being.

Modernists were indeed revolutionaries. They rejected the notion that art must be rooted in a nation’s history, and they deliberately sought change and experimentation. ‘To every age its own art’ was the founding principle of the Vienna Secession in 1897. It was permissible for art to be ‘ugly’ and to emulate the blunt energy of ‘primitivism’. They were more concerned for truth and doubts than for beauty and certainties, more interested in questions than in answers, more anxious to communicate feelings – Hitler’s ‘inner experience’ – than to portray visual reality. In the face of the Germans’ consuming passion for order, Modernists celebrated disorder and uncertainty. Far from shunning the epithet of elitist, they raised it to a high principle that artists were independent of society and that culture was a sphere unto itself. The gulf that had opened between Modernists and the public was not their fault; it was the public that had lost its aesthetic sense and gone its own way. Nothing could have been more foreign to the Modernists than the idea that they had an obligation to society. Inculcating national pride or providing the public with security, beauty and joy, not to mention a refuge from life’s travails, was not what they had in mind.

In seeking to obliterate Modernist art forms, Hitler was obviously imposing a personal artistic preference. The straightforward realism of most of the nineteenth-century German school was what he admired and what he believed to be the culmination of everything worthwhile in the visual arts. In its simplest form it was the style he had painted in. It was the style that he could understand and that the mass of the public could grasp. But why did the ‘ugliness’ of the Modernist canvas trouble him? Why did the exuberant play with colour grate? Why was the raw power of primitive art disturbing? Why did he see obscenity in irony? Simply to ask the questions is to make the answers obvious and leads to the very heart of his hatred of the avant-garde. For him Modernism was intolerable because it was thought-provoking, unconventional, uncomfortable, shocking, abstract, pessimistic, distorted, cynical, enigmatic, disorderly, freakish. It was exactly what you do not want if what you want for yourself – and for your nation – is an escape into a world of security, conventional beauty, conformity, simplicity, reassurance. He did not put it that way. What he said was ‘Deutsch sein heißt klar sein‘ – to be German means to be clear – a gnomic aphorism referring ‘not only to subject matter but also to the clarity of rendering sentiments’. Paradoxically it was the very realism of Modernism – not in the manner of his nineteenth-century favourites but in the metaphorical representation of the unease and terror of modern life – that made it unbearable to him. He wanted art to provide escape from pain, not confrontation with it. Ultimately the issue was not simply one of artistic taste but even more of social eschatology. He had no political choice but to oppose it. Hitler knew, as Plato knew, that art and society are moved by similar forces and that art not only reflects but promotes social upheaval.

Sad to say, Hitler’s antipathy to Modernist painting was broadly shared in time and space, and even his very terms of abuse were common currency. Roger Fry’s post-Impressionist exhibition in London had been variously likened by British critics to ‘another Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to plant a bomb under the institutions of art’, a ‘widespread ploi to destroy the whole fabric of European painting’, ‘the exact analogue to the anarchical movements in the political world’, ‘another form of madness’. The art critics of The Times explicitly labelled it ‘degenerate’. But in Germany, where politics and culture were historically intertwined, Modernism was denounced not just by some critics but also by authorities of the state. In 1901, after ordering the director of the Berlin National Gallery to be discharged for buying a large number of Modernist paintings, the head of the Second Reich – Wilhelm II – declared, in words strikingly similar to those later uttered by the leader of the Third: ‘Art is not art if it transgresses the laws and barriers laid down by me. The word “liberty” is often misused and can lead to license and presumption … Art which merely portrays misery is a sin against the German people …’

A great irony of the attack on Modernism by the Kaiser and the Fuhrer is that it was provoked precisely by the fact that Germany was in its vanguard. Not only where there more Modernist painters of note in Germany than elsewhere, there were more art museums collecting avant-garde works. In 1897 Berlin’s National Gallery was the first museum anywhere to by a Cézanne; the Folkwang Museum in Essen was one of the earliest promoters of Gauguin and van Gogh; some fifty other museums followed their lead. Through the interwar period, while British and French galleries refused Modernist works, even when offered as gifts, on the ground that such works, as the director of the Tate said, ‘might exercise a disturbing and even deleterious influence upon our younger painters’, German museums were steadily expanding their collections. Their holdings were consequently the foremost in the world, supplemented by a number of extremely important private collections. The total number of Modernist works in Germany probably reached an impressive 18,000.

Hitler was only speaking the truth when he insisted that, as a result of being captured by Modernists, the arts had lost their mass appeal and culture had been detached from the experience of all but a small minority. Popular response to the avant-garde ran the gamut from indifference and incomprehension to hostility. The great majority of German painters and sculptors themselves were traditionalists to whom any form of Modernism was foreign in every sense of the word. This was particularly true in southern Germany, as reflected in the annual summer exhibitions in March’s Glass Palace. Of nearly a thousand painters who showed there in 1930, for instance, only a dozen or so could be considered Modernists.

Hitler’s antipathy, however, had two unique elements. One was the centrality of anti-Semitism. The association of Jews with Modernism had no basis in fact. Chagall apart, there were no Jewish painters of note and only five or six minor ones, none the equivalent in painting to Schoenberg in music or Erich Mendelsohn in architecture. In truth, he tacitly recognized this fact. His speeches condemned not Jewish painters but Jewish influence on painting, which had made itself felt through art commentary in the Jewish-controlled press. He once explained to Christa Schroeder what he was driving at. Jews knew very well, he said, that Modernist painting was worthless and decadent. But they bought it and made a tremendous fuss about it; as a result prices were inflated and they then sold it and made huge profits. With these they acquired valuable Old Masters for themselves. He believed this was borne out when private Jewish art collections began being seized in the late 1930s. ‘What is so remarkable,’ he told Goebbels, ‘is that Jews – as is now becoming evident from the confiscation of Jewish property – spent all the money that they swindled from the people for [Modernist] kitsch on outstandingly good and valuable pictures.’

In Adolf Hitler’s time, modernism was new and rising. A century later, it is the decadent establishment. It has sunk deep roots into mass culture.

About Hunter Wallace 9685 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

37 Comments

  1. I think that Hitler was a version of medernity. The flag, the VW Beetle, the Hugo Boss, the weapon designs and the Autocar fetish he had. The TV and radio broadcast too. If he’d gone to art college in Vienna he’d have become a top tier designer. What’s triumphed is the Jewish version of modernity. The modernity of Picasso’s Demoiselles Davignon, Rothko’s suicidal abstraction, Jeff Koons sneering oikophobia. Judeo-Negrophil-consumerism.

  2. Even as a child I had an inherent distrust of modernism, and I struggled with that.

    Thus, even when I listened to Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Rush, Yes, and Led Zeppelin, it was for the same things I heard in Bach, Dowland, Buxtehude, and Beethoven.

    So, when I skipped school, my favourite thing to do was to meander downtown to the Old Oakwood Cemtery where I would wander amongst the ghosts of the Confederate veterans, or visit the NC Museum of Art, then downtown, wherein I studiously avoided everything of the 20th century to focus on traditional European landscape art.

    fortunately the truant officers were not cultural ,for never once did they find me, even though I was in plain sight.

    Even my hair I grew long, not because I felt any connection to Hippies, whom I inherently disliked for what I rightly regarded as their pie in the sky decadence, but, because I saw the Angles of olde or Musketeers of Cardinal Richelieu in the style.

    That said, I was acutely aware that most of my classmates had no such inclinations, for they lived and died by Modernity, where for me it was only something to suppress, something to escape.

    I guess that makes me a Nazi, or, at least, if not in blood, then in soul.

    For me the future can be nowhere else but in The Past, if not technologically, then at least in the construction of a community.

    • Did you ever slip over to Chapel Hill when Harold Covington’s NAZI chapter was active there?

      • @Flaxen…

        I did not have to slip over to Chapel Hill to see Covington’s Nazi chapter – Dear Flaxen, for his office was in Raleigh in 1977-1979 period.

        Yep, they were but a few blocks from my house, right near the old Peace Street Market Store where I would by my Lucky Strikes for 35 cents a single pack – $2.00, if you wanted a whole carton.

        As to his office, you could not miss it, as it had a huge modern window in front, the entire breadth of it covered by a swastika flag.

        At that time, it was a fad for the culturally curious to call up his office, because Mr. Covington would leave a daily message where he would literally rant and rave about other races and goings on in the country in such a way as those who were upset with Harrison Arkansas, for bad optics, the other day would be very mifft, indeed!

        We also had Glenn Miller in the 1980s, though he and his compound were in deep in the boonies of Eastern Carolina, which was probably 175 miles away from Raleigh, although just knowing he was out there disturbed Progressives in Raleigh near about as much as did our senator of that time, the honourable Jesse Helms.

        There, I hope that sates your curiosity some for some Carolina political stories.

  3. @Brad You are aware that after the Fall of France, Hitler invited all of the French moderns including Pablo Picasso and George Braque to a grand tour of Germany escorted by his favorite sculptor Arno Breker.

    Among those accepting Hitler’s invitation were Andre Derain, Henri Bouchard (designer of the Reformation Wall in Switzerland), Maurice Vlaminck, and a couple of dozen other French moderns.

    Btw, Picasso and George Braque continued to work all during the German occupation, including sales to German officers visiting their studios. Even though they both had no love for the boche.

    Ask yourself this question, why is it only the Jews owned European art, and are still complaining about their loss to this day? It seems every Jew owned at least a few dozen masterpieces.

    • @Krafty Wurker…

      That, Sir, was a sublimely good comment!

      Do try not to fall in love with yourself!

    • He does appear to be one of the great heroes of our people. A doomed hero, but a hero nevertheless.

  4. From what I understand, they claim Hitler was anywhere between 5’5″ and 5’9″, depending on source. Yet he appears as tall or slightly taller than the other men in that picture. Germans aren’t exactly known for being squat. The woman may be above average herself.

    • “National Socialism is a thoroughly modernist ideology idiot. That’s like Political Science 101.”

      Only if you believe the Jewish professors who taught the classes! Even Wagner’s Operas didn’t ‘modernize’ (Crap out) until AFTER AH had left the scene. National Socialism tried to find the ORGANIC nature of the German culture, and People, going back a thousand years. the Jews, in less than 50, obliterated it. Who should we hate more?

  5. This is how OODA loop looks like. You watch and you can,t see.

    “”…Hitler’s antipathy, however, had two unique elements. One was the centrality of anti-Semitism. The association of Jews with Modernism had no basis in fact. Chagall apart, there were no Jewish painters of note and only five or six minor ones, none the equivalent in painting to Schoenberg in music or Erich Mendelsohn in architecture. In truth, he tacitly recognized this fact. His speeches condemned not Jewish painters but Jewish influence on painting…””

    Hitler saw genetic white liberal problem but refused to admit it. And despite Adolph purged Jews from everywhere, entire Germany was full of sabotage and treason and every last genetic white liberal lied about everything 24/7 and this was the real cause of Germany,s doom.

    Hitlers Germany was very similar to modern Ukraine. Both fought with Russia and were doomed from very beginning. Because of patriotism was controlled by very weird people, who are open minded, educated , patriotic, fact checking, reasoned, scientific and so on.

    Why the hell anybody need to flirt with natural born evil ? Do our enemies call our art like Columbus or Confederate statues a “modernism” and flirting with it ? When was the last time, when Obama with half of his government visited some Confederate art museum and changed his mind ?

  6. Frederic Spotts’s masterpiece is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s certainly one of Adolf Hitler’s best biographies; free from any insufferable moralizing.

  7. When I was a young snot, I loved punk, Dadaism, or anything that was a repudiation of what had come before me. Burn it all down and start over, because the old f^cks in charge screwed up everything. The past is dead, long live the future, and all that typically idiotic youthful garbage.

    It’s still happening now, with the difference that the old f^cks now in charge are stupid enough to let the angry young dolts have their way.

  8. Jews are the rotton core of all subversive modernisms – cultural, economic, and political.

    Slezkine, in his book The Jewish Century, admits all this. And, as a Jew,

    thinks it’s just fine.

  9. Not only Hitler. Sir Alfred Munnings, the great pastoral painter, told the tale of Winston Churchill and him walking down the street together when Sir Winston told him that ,if they ran into Picasso, that he hoped Munnings would join him in kicking the Spaniard’s backside.

  10. I would point out that Fascist Italy officially embraced an art trend called Futurism (deals with time and motion and technology) which Hitler rejected.

  11. You crybabies are so mad about the society that allows you to even love hitler and authoritarianism , without even noticing how ridiculous that is.. I just want to point that modernism is nothing but the completion of western art as far as it is determined by a concept of truth inherited from the greeks. Rothko is no different than Michelangelo. But whereas for the latter nature had to be depicted as the artistic-technological creation of a godhead (hence raphael’s depicting him as aristotle in the painting that is the header of this crybaby haven of a website) for Rothko this wasn’t possible anymore since the human being in the meantime, having been abandoned by nature and the gods, assigned himself the mission of being the sole master and governor of creation (a mission that the americans now are finding really hard to come to terms with). Same with music. Beethoven and the Beatles, Monteverdi and Megadeth, are really just the same.. Failing to notice that is a consequence of havind stupid ears.

    • Like all defenders of modernist trash, your only argument is “you cavemen just don’t understand!”

      Perhaps the issue actually is that we understand it too well? Did you ever take that possibility into consideration, that you’re actually the conformist ignoramus barking like a trained seal in favor of nihilist trash that expresses a suicidal, vileness-worshiping, deeply negative and spiritually diseased culture, and that in reality it’s you who lacks taste, intelligence, and discernment?

    • @Joe…

      “You crybabies are so mad about the society that allows you to even love Hitler and authoritarianism , without even noticing how ridiculous that is.”

      With respect, you’re an alien in need of an update, so I’ll give you one…

      #1. Nearly, our entire manufacturing sector was shipped out over the last 40 years. We weren’t consulted, other than to be told it was ‘Free-Trade’, and that it was ‘good’ for us.

      #2. Our sisters and daughters were forcet to attend school with those we did not want them to. We were not consulted – other than to have it rammed down our throats.

      #3. Our phone calls and e-mails are recorded and perused, en masse, without warrants – daily. For a glaring example, see Candidate Trump at Trump Towers.

      #4. We overwhelmingly voted against gay marriage – it was shoved on us, anyway, because we were told that it was ‘good for us’.

      #5. If you dare mention a vast array of topics, online, or certain words or theories, you are either shadow-banned or deplatformed.

      #6. Endless wars are made without our money and without declarations of such. With rare exception, we are not consulted, and, even when we are, we are lied to.

      #7.Our borders are left wide open, so that we are surrounded by alien races, who undercut the labour mark, all while we are lectured about ‘the evils of Southern slavery’.

      #8. If those on The Right try to peaceably assemble and protest, every tactick is used against us – from being denied permits, to having irregular government armies set upon us in the streets, to being bled financially with with lawfare.

      Meanwhile, the Left can burn down cities and very few are arrested, and when they are, most are soon let go.

      #9. We have to pay for and endure an academick ‘system’ that indoctrinates our children against us and teaches them to hate their own k ind, heritage, and culture.

      #10. The Media lies to us up and down, and when we don’t believe it, they call us every name in the book.

      CONCLUSION…

      I don’t know what planet you’ve been living on, but, it has not been the U.S. Either that or you are on the most amazing morphine drip I have ever seen.

      Come to think of it, it’s not that amazing, because tens of millions of ‘Conservative Americans’ are on this drip with you, some of them quick to remind me that I have the privilege of living in the greatest country ever devised by man.

      Many years ago this probably was the greatest country in the world, or, if not that, then close.

      That is why I served in the 3rd & 4th Infantry divisions – to protect it.

      The politicians, however, had no respect for us, so they threw it away.

      Now it is a crap country, and it is getting worse, year by year.

      We’re not ‘crybabies’ – we’re just not on heavy anæsthesia, like you.

    • @c d…

      “Adolf Hitler should be deified, not vilified.”

      Never a truer thing was said.

      Hitler ought be appreciated for his genius, courage, insight, and numerous other virtues, and, as well, for the debilities in his psyche which licenced him to let such an evil loose, in the shadow of which we still live today.

      In the end, any study of Hitler is not about him, but, about us – who we wish to be.

  12. I know what they mean by modern art being crap, the function of an artist is to describe the society around him and how it made him feel, not necessarily to bow in front of some idea of perfection hundreds of years old. If this produces something messed up and weird, it’s often because society is messed up and weird. Artists and writers often see things other people don’t.

    • Pollock was a lot more interesting than Rothko. Also it is very cruel to teach young non Jewish artists that Rothko is a virtuous and great painter…unless you point out that he was also a miserable Jewish scumbag. White artists shouldn’t be made to feel that they have much in common with jewish artists.

  13. We do need to own up to how much Modernist garbage originated with Whites, not Jews or POC. Bauhaus was German (they did not admit Jews), Le Corbusier was Swiss, Kandinsky Russian, Picasso Spanish. John Cage is just as awful as Arnold Schoenberg. Maybe Jackson Pollock is better than Rothko.

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