Thursday, 9 June 2011

Haus der Kunst

The Haus der Kunst (House of Art),  is an art gallery in Munich which was opened in 1937. It is perched on the side of the Englischer Garten, a Munich city park that was founded in 1789 and styled after the British landscape parks of Capability Brown.

The building was inaugurated as the House of German Art with a huge display of Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung ("Great German art exhibition"). This was intended to be an antidote to what Hitler had called, entartete kunst (Decadant Art). which is to say, anything abstract or modern.  One imagines Hitler as being the kind of chap who would say, "I don't know much about art but I know what I like". The German state owned art galleries were cleared of any art that could be  categorised thus and this was brought to Munich for display and eventual disposal.

The pieces were put on display along with mocking slogans and the price paid by the previous government shown. The Weimar Republic is now famous for the rampant financial inflation of the time. Yet, the time of this first German democratic government had been one of huge creativity. This included not just the classic arts of painting and sculpture, but also films, architecture and interior design.

Amongst those deemed decadent were Bauhaus, the group of cutting edge building and interior designers. Bauhaus were designing furniture in the 1920s that still looks modern today.

Cubism, Surrealism and Impressionism were also deemed decadent art. The work of lesser known artists was burnt with some ceremony. But the Nazi regime was not one to miss a chance to make money, and all the valuable pieces were sold abroad.  The art veto extended  to popular music, especially jazz because of its ethnic roots. They had many musicians and much music banned.

The famous jazz guitarist, Django Reinhart was extraordinarily lucky to survive the war. He was in Paris when the Nazi's conquered it. As a gypsy, and a jazz musician, he had two strikes against him. Many gypsies, but not Reinhart, ended their days in concentration camps.  

After the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung, the Haus of Kunst was filled with much more conventional art.  Portrait painters, recognising the way the wind was blowing, produced endless portraits of the Fuerher. Included this extraordinary Knight in shining armour.

Check this link for more examples.

The new, preferred art, was also to depict life in Germany and this one, "Der Führer Spricht" (The Führer Speaks) is intended to depict a typical German rural family listening to the radio. It might have appeared in the American Saturday Evening Post.

By 1945, the Haus of Kunst had survived the bombing. The US Army turned part of it into an Officers Club. But, a few years later, the Haus of Kunst was back in business as an art gallery.  Among the first exhibits were the previously shunned work of modern artists and Picasso's Gurnecia was on display.

Gurnecia depicts the Spanish town that was bombed by the Luftwaffe in the Spanish civil war. It is abstract but its meaning is clear enough.

Since the war years the patrons of the Haus de Kunst have, metaphorically speaking, continued to stick two fingers up at the Fuerher. The Haus de Kunst has no permanent displays, but provides a temporary home for travelling exhibitions from around the world -  the most abstract, avant guard works,  in the most way out style imaginable.

More on Hitler's art.


  1. Cool post Terry. Politics affects art and vice versa on a regular basis. I have never seen that portrait of Adolf Hitler before. It kind of made me smile because it reminds me of a portrait of Galahad by George Frederick Watts. Galahad was supposed to be true of heart.

  2. Thanks.

    In the picture Hitler appears as, 'The Standard Bearer'. This seems to have been one of the views he had of himself, the upholder of decency and family values. Much, it seems, as many present day politicians.

    If you have time follow the links and see some of the other images they made of him.

  3. Awesome post! Thank you! Now I have something to look forward to when I one day visit Europe.

  4. Thanks Nerine, and nice to hear from you.

    Give yourself plenty of time on that Europe trip, there's lots to see :)

  5. just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all.

    Portrait Artists