0055 "Brushwork thick and easy" or a "beauty-parlor mask for murder"?

Reckoning with the Great German Art Exhibitions in the Western democracies

  • Keith Holz (Author)
    Western Illinois University, Macomb, Department of Art

    Keith Holz (Ph.D, Northwestern University), Associate Professor, Western Illinois University, Macomb, has held fellowships from the Getty, Fulbright, IREX, DAAD, and the German Historical Institute (Moscow). His publications examine public representations of modern German art during the Nazi years in the democracies. Among his current projects is the book: Placing Kokoschka, Kokoschka and Place. Publications include: Im Auge des Exils: Josef Breitenbach und die Freie Deutsche Kultur in Paris 1933-1941, with Wolfgang Schopf (2001); Modern German Art for Thirties Paris, Prague, and London (2004), and recent articles on German artists in Paris around 1930 (2009), Kokoschka in exile (2010), the Jewish art collector Max Silberberg in Breslau between the world wars (2011), and German exile artists groups as networks (2012).

Identifiers (Article)


This analysis of the reception of the Great German Art Exhibitions in presses in the Western democracies identifies limits, oversights, and key assumptions in these texts. Over time these assumptions accrued the force of myths. Key myths exposed are that Nazi art was: bad art, all the same, propaganda, not art at all, and modernist art's opposite. Concern was also registered that Western audiences might like it. Until war's end, discourse hewed close to frameworks and terms set forth by National Socialist propaganda, whereas postwar discourse was often subsumed within the reeducation programs of Occupation forces. In both phases, frank analysis of the art in exhibition was deferred. Recognition of myths from this early phase of Nazi art's historiography aims to discourage their repetition in scholarship on Nazi art and these exhibitions.


exhibitions, historiography, Nazi art, German art, reception, criticism, anti-modernism, modernism