Lesson plans for ages 15-18 in Art: Repatriation and Graphic Communication

Teaching Tools, 20 April 2007

© UNHCR/D.Boucherie
Helen Ecobedo's installation of life-sized puppets.

LESSONS 4 and 5: Entarte Kunst

Preparation

Refer to the readings listed in the Resources column of the Unit Plan, for background material for this lesson. Procedure Link to the previous lesson: Through painting, artists can reveal what they think about important subjects including death, love, religion and social justice. Many artists have used paintings to express their political and social beliefs and to protest against things such as war and poverty. Other artists tried to express poetic and symbolic feelings, and finally, there were artists who simply were experimenting with new and different techniques. In the light of the library assignment, the teacher asks the students to talk about their selected artists what did those artists try to convey through their artwork? Development: The information found in the Teacher's Resource Sheet: Degeneracy and Nazi Ideology in the 1920s and 1930s and in chapter 8, "Displacement of the Avant-Garde", in Bruce Altshuler, The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century, form the content of this double lesson. It is suggested that this lesson be treated as a lecture by the teacher, entitled "the Nazi response to avant-garde art". Points to bring out in the lecture are: Factors that made the 1937 Exhibition of Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst) possible. Various forms of propaganda employed by those who arranged the exhibition to denigrate the artworks on display (e.g. still lifes by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff were labelled as "Nature as seen by sick minds"; Klee's works were juxtaposed with pieces from the Prinzhorn collection of art of the insane; Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Self-Portrait as Soldier was labelled as "an insult to the German heroes of the Great War"). The criteria for the confiscation of avant-garde work and the persecution of the artists and those who publicly supported modern art. The various 'degenerate' artists who fled Germany, preferring exile. Not all of those artists succeeded in fleeing. For example, Otto Freundlich, whose primitivistic sculpture, The New Man, was displayed on the cover of the 1937 Entartete Kunst exhibition guide book, died in the Lublin-Maidanek concentration camp, after being captured by the Gestapo while trying to escape occupied France. Today, too, many people live in exile, having fled their homelands, fearing death or persecution for the expression of their ideas, whether they be painters or sculptors, poets or novelists, journalists or academics. Close by pointing out the provisions of Articles 18 and 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 18 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone on in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Essay topics Either, set one of the Discussion questions, used in Lesson 1, as an essay topic, or set this question: "Does disagreement over the quality of art allow those in power to dictate what is allowed to be shown in public?"