Connect with us – Art History Stories

4 Of Hitler’s Least Favourite ‘Degenerate’ Artists (There Were Many More)

20th century

4 Of Hitler’s Least Favourite ‘Degenerate’ Artists (There Were Many More)

As a person who considered himself an artist, Hitler was very sensitive to aesthetics. He hated people who did not fit to his imagined world of ideally proportioned men with Aryan features and German upbringing. Same applied to artworks: if something looked too modern, it was discarded as UN-GERMAN, or JEWISH or COMMUNIST. In effect, virtually all German avant-garde artists faced sanctions, lost their jobs or even had to flee the country.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Man's Head. Self-Portrait, 1926

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Man’s Head. Self-Portrait, 1926

In the year when Hitler took power, 1933, Kirchner’s works were already branded as ‘degenerate’. He, the talented Expressionist printmaker, painter and sculptor, was very disturbed by the situation: “There is a war in the air. In the museums, the hard-won cultural achievements of the last 20 years are being destroyed, and yet the reason why we founded the Brücke was to encourage truly German art, made in Germany. And now it is supposed to be un-German. Dear God. It does upset me”, he wrote. In 1937 over 600 of his artworks were sold or destroyed, and he was expelled from the Art Academy in Berlin. A year later, Kirchner committed suicide by shooting himself dead.

Max Enst


Max Ernst, Self-Portrait, 1909, Private collection

Fortunately, Ernst left Germany for France already in 1925. However, the German origins caused Ernst some problems as in 1939 he was interned as an ‘”undesirable foreigner” in Camp des Milles, near Aix-en-Provence. His friends Paul Éluard and Varian Fry interceded and Ernst was released a few weeks later, but when Germany occupied France in 1940, he was arrested again, this time by Gestapo. He escaped and with the little help from his friends Peggy Guggenheim and Fry, he fled to the US.

Max Beckmann

Max Beckmann, Self-Portrait With Trumpet, 1938, Private collection

Max Beckmann, Self-Portrait With Trumpet, 1938, Private collection

In 1933 the Nazis called Beckmann, an artist associated with the New Objectivity movement, a “cultural Bolshevik”. He was dismissed from his teaching post in the Frankfurt Art School and in 1937 over 500 of his works were confiscated by the government. A day after Hitler’s speech about ‘degenerate art’, Beckmann left Germany for the Netherlands and stayed there until the end of the war. Then he moved to the States.

Otto Dix

Otto Dix, Self-portrait, 1912, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI

Otto Dix, Self-portrait, 1912, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI

Dix was also sacked from his teaching position in Dresden Academy. However, he remained in Germany and kept painting. As the other practising artists, he was forced to join the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts and promise that he would paint only landscapes. He was conscripted to the army and captured by the French at the end of the war. They released him in 1946. Dix returned to Germany and regained recognition and good name.

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


More in 20th century

  • roy lichtenstein multiple visions roy lichtenstein multiple visions

    20th century

    Roy Lichtenstein Multiple Visions at MUDEC


    “Everyone knows me for comics and dots” Lichtenstein once said to Gianni Mercurio, the curator of Roy Lichtenstein Multiple Visions. For sure Roy Lichtenstein is known as one of the most important figures in 20th century art and a Pop Art icon, but in this exhibition...

  • 19th Century

    The Beginning of a New World at Kröller-Müller Museum


    The Beginning of a new World: The Development of Modern Sculpture is the newest exhibition at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands. It pays tribute to the unique vision and incredible sculptural acquisitions of Bram Hammacher, the museum’s director from 1948-1963. Jannet de Goede, current Head...

  • I was a Rich Man's Plaything 1947 by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi 1924-2005 I was a Rich Man's Plaything 1947 by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi 1924-2005


    Painting of the Week: Eduardo Paolozzi, I was a Rich Man’s Plaything


    Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1947 collage I was a Rich Man’s Plaything, which can be seen in the Tate Modern in London, was one of the first works of Pop Art and even contains the word ‘POP!’ Eduardo Paolozzi was born in 1924 in Leith, a port in...

  • 20th century

    Black Is Beautiful: Kwame Brathwaite at the Skirball Center


    Let’s play a game: pick up any magazine from a U.S. newsstand and count how many people of color are featured. Now try playing with a magazine from the 1950’s. Depending on which magazine you chose, the difference may not be all that striking. But the...

  • Cubism

    Tarsila do Amaral: Joy Is the Decisive Test


    Tarsila do Amaral left behind 230 paintings, five sculptures, and hundreds of drawings, prints and murals. She led Brazilian art into modernism. In her home country, she is a household name.  She was a socialite, fashionista, divorcee, who lived how she wanted. She was adored and...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy