Artists during the 18th/19th centuries tried to push away from old fashioned values such as myths and classical ideologies and move forward for a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately many artists also kept digging up the past, creating a see-saw series of reactions between trying to be new and modern and trying to be safe and keep with what we already knew. However, regurgitating the past only in effect holds us back culturally whereas instead we needed to split away and explore new ideas.
Between the short space of 1900 and 1937, several art movements erupted, grew and overlapped over one another, such as Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Modernism, Constructivism, Surrealism… and experimenting with the new technology being developed meant the ability of different ways to communicate be possible, such as posters, magazines and film began to appear which revolutionised the way we live and are common today.
Modern art was to take ordinary and boring old objects and tearing it away from its original context and turn it into something inspiring. “Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp(c.1917), is a urinal turned on its back and signed, which is regarded by many as one of the most moving pieces of artwork of the 20th century, but which also crunched up the noses of many others. I personally love it, as it is very tongue-in-cheek and has surprisingly been taken seriously. Almost like some people’s impression of modern artwork, of how it is just gathering random every day things and calling it art.
This includes Adolf Hitler.
During the 1930’s the Nazi party began to rise with power and quickly grabbed hold of our culture, and changed it drastically. Adolf Hitler wanted to destroy but also wanted to take control of the art world, and expressed his utter hatred of modern art by dismissing artists, art teachers and confiscating modern artwork. Hitler was originally an artist but his work was ignored by the art establishment as his work was cliché and too ordinary, unlike that of the new modern art styles that were quickly taking over.
Four years into power, Hitler made a degenerate art exhibition (1937), exposing modern artwork and turning them into a laughing stock, in an attempt to show how the “enemy” were insane: “the exhibition was laid out with the deliberate intention of encouraging a negative reaction”(www.bbc.co.uk) the exhibition was roughly slapped together with no effort to show how pathetic and cheap the work is, to give German people a distaste of modern art, and also to create propaganda. The exhibition featured works from artists who were not all Jewish, though the artworks were advertised as Jewish.
Artists featured, including Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Max Beckham and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, suffered events including ones that had them fired from their jobs, artwork taken away and driven out of the country; in some case suicide was even a by-product. Most modern artists had escaped to America, where they changed America’s view on art. Most artwork that were stolen by the Nazi party have been since uncovered, but possibly hundreds still remain hidden to this day.