Unit plan for ages 15-18 in Art: Repatriation and Graphic Communication

Teaching Tools, 16 April 2007

© The Imperial Stables at Prague Castle
Fragment of the poster of "Flight and Exile in Art" exhibition (opened at 19 July 2002 in Czech Republic).

UNIT OBJECTIVES

Knowledge

To understand the political, social and economic context in which artists of the Expressionist, Surrealist and Dadaist movements produced their work.

To understand that artists have suffered persecution and exile because of the content and style of their works, as well as for their political beliefs and religious affiliations.

Skills

To analyse the social and political messages which early 20th century European artists sought to convey through their works.

Values

To appreciate liberty of artistic expression as a fundamental freedom and right.

LESSON 1: The state of art in Germany between the world wars

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES
Review of Expressionism, Surrealism and Dadaism.

The evolution of art movements in the political, social and economic contexts of Germany between the World Wars.
Entry behaviour: This unit of lessons can be taught in sequence after the students have covered Expressionism, Surrealism and Dadaism in their curriculum.

The students should read one of the short articles. Ask review questions after the reading.
RESOURCES
Student background reading: Give the students a brief account of German society during and after World War I, from a History department textbook, or from a more general source, such as:

"Germany: History World War I; The Weimar Republic", World Book Encyclopedia, (Chicago & London, World Book, annual), vol. 8, OR

"Balance Sheet of the First World War", 20th Century (Milwaukee, Purnell, 1979), vol. 7, p. 881-883, OR

"World War I: Consequences of the war", World Book Encyclopedia, (Chicago & London, World Book, annual), vol. 21

Readings for the teacher: Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change 2nd ed. (London, Thames & Hudson, 1991), p. 57-111

LESSONS 2 and 3: Persecution and exile

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES
Artists who faced persecution: The lives and selected works of artists of the first three decades of the 20th century. These are some of the artists whose works were banned or burned by the Nazis. Many of them faced or fled persecution in the 1930s.

Examples include:
  • Max Beckmann (Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery 1917)
  • Marc Chagall (Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers 1913)
  • Otto Dix (Cardplaying War-Cripples 1920)
  • Max Ernst (Murdering Airplane 1920)
  • George Grosz (Republican Automatons 1920, Daum Marries Her Pedantic Automaton George in May 1920; John Heartfield Is Very Glad of It 1920)
  • Wassily Kandinsky (The Black Spot 1921)
  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (Self-Portrait as a Soldier 1915)
  • Paul Klee (Fugue in Red 1921)
  • K├Ąthe Kollwitz (The Widow I 1922-23)
  • Franz Marc (The Large Blue Horses, The Fate of the Animals 1913)
  • Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (Vase with Dahlias 1912)
  • Kurt Schwitters (Merz collages)
Library research assignment: Teacher selects artists from the list in the Content column according to the available resources in the school library and the public library.

Students review the life of the selected artist, his social and political views, and how these views were conveyed through his artwork.

To decrease pressure on limited library resources, students could work in small groups to produce a common research project one artist per group. Suggested research directions may be found in the lesson plans. Copies of each project are then handed out to other class members.
RESOURCES
Examples of useful reference books

  • The Dictionary of Art, editied by Jane Turner, 34 volumes (London, Macmillan, 1996)
  • Denys Chevalier, Klee (Naefels, Switzerland, Bonfini Press, 1979)
  • Hans Hess, George Grosz (London, Studio Vista, 1974)
  • Eva Karcher, Dix (Naefels, Switzerland, Bonfini Press Corporation, 1987)
  • Kurt Scwhitters (London, The Tate Gallery, 1985)
  • John Elderfield, Kurt Scwhitters (London, Thames & Hudson, 1985)

LESSONS 4 and 5: Entarte Kunst

CONTENT TEACHING METHODS/LEARNING STRATEGIES
An introduction to The Exhibition of Degenerate Art, held in Munich, 1937. Link to previous lessons: Teacher poses questions to students concerning the purpose of art, and the basic rights of artists to express their social and political viewpoints through their works

Development: The history of the confiscation of avant-garde works, the dismissal of modern artists and those sympathetic to advanced art from their various posts, the persecution of these artists, and the public denigration of the artworks judged as mental and moral degeneracy by National Socialism should be treated in lecture form by the teacher.

Students should be encouraged to ponder upon the rights of the individual to freedom of thought and speech which are guaranteed by Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
RESOURCES
Teacher's Resource Sheet:
Degeneracy and Nazi Ideology in the 1920s and 1930s from Stephanie Barron, ed. "Degenerate Art": The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany (Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art/New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1991), p. 11-13.
Readings for the teacher:
  • Bruce Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century (New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1994), pp. 136-149
  • Stephanie Barron, ed. "Degenerate Art": The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany (Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art / New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1991)
  • Art and Power: Europe under the Dictators: 1930-45, compiled and selected by Dawn Ades et. al (London, Thames and Hudson, 1995), pp. 330-333, 338-339
  • Sam Hunter and John Jacobs, Modern Art (New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1992)
  • Beth Irwin Lewis, George Grosz: Art and Politics
    in the Weimar Republic
    (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1991)
  • Theda Shapiro, Painters and Politics: The European Avant-Garde and Society (New York, Elsevier, 1976)
  • Helmut Lehmann-Hupt, Art Under a Dictatorship (New York, OUP, 1954), pp. 78-87