Postmodern?

Art and Architecture in the Third Reich

Literature on art in the Third Reich tends to focus on the political, psychological, and social aspects of the work, viewing artistic and architectural style in light of the political and social aims of the National Socialists: as propaganda, a return to traditional genre forms designed to legitimize and reinforce state policy and authority. This is understandable, since art, as a cultural product, can never be divorced from the society in which it was produced. However, in order to remain objective, it is important to see National Socialist art on its own terms, without directly linking the art to horrors perpetrated by the Nazi program. To that end, I focus on ways in which art of the period may be seen as prefiguring certain postmodern impulses, especially the double-coded postmodernism of Charles Jencks. I do not wish to equate postmodernism with fascism. After all, according to Jencks, critics of postmodernism such as Kenneth Frampton often compare postmodernism to Nazi populism, charging double-coded architecture with paternalism, monism, and totalitarianism.1 My only aim here is to read National Socialist art and aesthetic policy in terms of the postmodernism advocated by Jencks, noting similarities and differences between the two, and reinforcing the notion that there is no sharp break between modernism and postmodernism; in fact, as noted by Jean-François Lyotard, postmodernism “is undoubtedly a part of the modern.”2 I will begin with brief overviews of National Socialism and double-coded postmodernism, followed by an examination of works by state-sanctioned artists and architects that illustrate the correspondence between the two movements.
An earlier version of this essay was presented to Donald Kuspit’s Spring 2007 graduate seminar, “Varieties of Realism in 20th Century Art” at Stony Brook University. This present version originally appeared in Art Criticism Volume 22, Number 2, 2007. I am deeply grateful to Donald Kuspit and Leah Modigliani for their comments and suggestions in the preparation of this essay.
1 2

Jencks, What is Post-Modernism (New York: Saint Martin’s Press, 1986), 10 Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesta Press, 1984), 79
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Following World War I, Germany was in shambles. The treaty of Versailles forced Germany to accept responsibility for the Great War and make substantial territorial concessions, leaving the country bankrupt. During the Weimar republic period, the gulf between classes widened, unemployment increased exponentially, and rival political factions vied for control of the fractured government. One such party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), gained support throughout the 1920s and came to power in January of 1933, promising to end unemployment and return Germany to its place as an industrial and social power. According to NSDAP thinking, modernity was the ultimate cause of the country’s problems and they sought to unify society through a return to traditional culture and a belief in the Volksgemeinschaft, “a ‘community of destiny’ founded on ‘the blood and the soil.’”3 NSDAP leaders understood the value of art as a means of promoting their social and political aims and instituted a cultural policy designed to glorify the new German state, largely through a return to traditional narrative and genre forms that were reinterpreted to serve National Socialist goals and programs. According to NSDAP policy, modern art and architecture served only to glorify the creator’s ego. When placed solely in the service of the artist or architect, the ego is a destructive force, driving a wedge between specialists (artists, critics, historians, and the like) and the public. When placed in service of society and the ideal, however, the artist’s ego becomes a creative and sustaining force, and works glorify the people and the state. Therefore, the National Socialists advocated a return to idealism, believing it to be the foundation on which society flourishes. Atonality in music, abstraction in art, and Bauhaus-style architecture were banned, since such modern tendencies deprived the people of archetypes, base-metaphors, and myths, the elements necessary for understanding and relating to the work.

3

Michaud, The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 256
2

The NSDAP rejection of modern art as alienating the public seems related to the claims of many postmodern theorists, including the double-coded theory of Charles Jencks. A thorough discussion of the various postmodern theories is beyond the scope permissible here, though an outline of Jencks’s theory will help explain some of the features we find in German art of the period. For Jencks, the postmodern era is marked by “the end of avant-garde extremism, the partial return to tradition and the central role of communicating with the public.”4 Jencks advocates a combination of modernist techniques and classical style in architecture; a double coding that results in new forms that appeal to architects and the public alike. For Jencks, postmodern art and architecture may be characterized by some or all of the following “‘Ideological’ identifiers”5: double coding of style; ‘popular’ and pluralist; semiotic form; traditions and choice; artist/client; elitist and participative; piecemeal; and architect as representative and activist.6 National Socialist aesthetic policy appears to run against several assumptions implicit in Jencks’s list. However, in the final analysis, many NSDAP projects that at first glance appear antithetical to Jencksian postmodernism may, in actuality, prefigure his theory. For example, National Socialist myth making seems to go against Jencks’s view of postmodern mythology and the changes it underwent in the shift from modernism to postmodernism. According to Jencks, “Whereas a mythology was given to the artist in the past by tradition and a patron, in the Post-Modern world it is chosen and invented.”7 We may assume that this statement removes any possibility of postmodernism in NSDAP art, since the mythology

4

quoted in Rose, The post-modern and the post-industrial: a critical analysis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 101 5 ibid., 115 6 ibid. 7 Jencks, What is Post-Modernism?, 27
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employed by artists was rooted in tradition and prescribed by a patron (in this case, the state). However, the National Socialists did not use myths as they had come down from tradition, they chose and invented myths to serve specific programmatic ends, and the artists themselves played a role in articulating the new cultural mythos. The architects of NSDAP aesthetic policy read traditional myths through the lens of modern technological advancement, social and economic conditions, and the situation of Germany following World War I, creating a new, hybridized, complex, and contradictory set of state-sanctioned myths designed to articulate the situation and expectations of the new German society. By 1937, the year of the famous ‘degenerate’ art and music exhibitions, artists remaining in Germany began working in the traditional genre styles favored by NSDAP policy makers. State-sanctioned artists and architects, such as Ivo Salinger, Leni Riefenstahl, Arno Breker, Josef Thorak and Paul Ludwig Troost, produced works in classical or mannerist styles, employing traditional narrative structures while also exhibiting and referencing modernist techniques and themes. The adoption of National Socialist aesthetic theory by artists of the period should not be seen as an adoption of fascist ideology; they simply chose to employ styles and themes favored by their patrons, so as to increase their chances of future commissions. Despite the adoption of state-sanctioned genres, viewers can easily see the influence of modernism in the work of these artists. Furthermore, a close reading of these works reveals a clearly identifiable double coding of traditional and modern codes, techniques, and forms, as well as indications of postmodern tendencies. In what follows, works by Salinger, Riefenstahl, Thorak, Breker, and Troost are compared with works from the postmodern canon that exhibit the characteristics described by Jencks.

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In order to thrive and expand, the NSDAP government needed a large, healthy, and growing population committed to the vision of a new German society. Given the ever-increasing population losses due to expatriation, forced labor, World War II, and other factors, the National Socialists instituted a system of natal propaganda designed to promote the reproduction of pure Germans, while also serving to define acceptable partners and gender roles. This natal propaganda campaign appropriated recognizable images from well-known mythology, such as Leda and the Swan, and the Judgment of Paris, redefined to serve state purposes. According to this propaganda, Leda was right to accept the advances of Zeus. After all, Zeus was a god, and any woman should be happy to produce offspring with gods. In fact, women should happily accept any opportunity to procreate with male party members, which would produce more healthy Germans to continue expanding the glory of state. Similarly, men were to mate with as many women as possible, and should employ any tactic that would ensure procreative activity, though they must be careful to choose healthy mates of pure German stock. Hence, artists employed the Paris myth, in which Paris must judge the beauty of three goddesses. Many artists produced works that explored these myths, including Ivo Salinger, whose Leda and the Swan and Judgment of Paris also seem to exhibit certain Jencksian characteristics. Salinger’s Leda and the Swan depicts Leda in a seductive pose reminiscent of advertising and pornography, reclining near a stream in a wooded landscape, seemingly unaware of the swan’s approach. At first glance, the painting may be seen as a somewhat failed attempt to return to a classical or mannerist painting style, but something else is happening here. Notice the flat handling of the figure and drapery and the sketchy quality of the grass and trees. Flattening of the body and stroke-heavy delineation of plant forms is characteristic of certain modernist impulses, which, when combined with the classical arrangement, traditional narrative, and contemporary

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pose seems to imply a double coding of modernism and classicism. As noted above, NSDAP natal propaganda appropriated traditional myths, reinterpreted them, and placed them into a modern context that would appeal to the people while conveying the roles that the Third Reich expected people to play. This simultaneous appeal to the general public, on one hand, and to specialists (or the state), on the other, is characteristic of postmodernism as formulated by Jencks. The traditional story of Leda’s meeting with the swan has little relevance to modern society, yet seems to take on a new meaning through its combination of traditional and modern elements. Salinger’s painting, by reinterpreting classical mythology to serve a new purpose, seems to employ the semiotic form advocated by Jencks, if we interpret ‘semiotic form’ as forms designed to encourage interpretation and understanding by viewers and other end-users. Another painting by Salinger, The Judgment of Paris, takes the double coding of classicism and modernism one step further. Here we see Paris, holding the Golden Apple, moments after his judgment in favor of Aphrodite. Athena and Hera dress while Aphrodite moves towards Paris, arms outstretched in an open, inviting pose. Interestingly, the drapery that Athena wraps herself in is composed of only a few flat planes of color, depriving the cloth of a truly three-dimensional feel. Additionally, as noted by Eric Michaud, Paris seems to be wearing the costume of a member of the Hitler Youth.8 The landscape appears to be painted in a somewhat traditional manner, though careful observation reveals the distance and depth to be composed of flat planes of color, rather than through any traditional glazing or highlighting techniques, much like Salinger’s handling of the drapery. Here, modern costuming and flat paint handling again combine with a traditional landscape and narrative to produce a double coding of classical and modernist styles. Interestingly, the female bodies also seem rather masculine, as if

8

Michaud, The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany, 157
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Salinger painted a couple of male bodies, augmented with female primary and secondary sex characteristics, and then merely added female faces to them. Here the double coding is of the masculine and feminine, perhaps alluding to the ‘pluralism’ found in Jencksian postmodernism. In this case, ‘pluralism’ should be understood in the largely negative sense of a devolutionary system designed to subsume individual bodies under a larger state-organized body. I am certain that Jencks’s ‘pluralism’ refers more to the plurality of stylistic codes and organizing principles in government, rather than a plurality of sexual characteristics. However, a certain brand of semantic pluralism is evident in Salinger’s work. Undoubtedly, Salinger’s loose understanding of the body and movement contributed to the androgyny of the figures, and there is no reason to suspect that such androgyny was intentional. Intentional or not, the postmodern impulses toward a double (or triple) coding of modernism with some other code(s), and a tendency toward some form of pluralism, though not necessarily Jencksian pluralism, are apparent in the work. To explicate this further, we may compare Salinger’s works with Carlo Maria Mariani’s The Hand Submits to the Intellect and The Grand Creative Process. Both images are painted in a style reminiscent of mannerism, but lack the sensitivity of handling found in mannerist works. Jencks advocated Mariani as exemplary of postmodern double coding, due to the modern concerns combined with a classical or traditional handling found in his work. In the case of The Hand Submits to the Intellect, Mannerist figures and paint handling are employed to reference the birth of painting and the Dibutades myth, as well as late twentieth century discussions of the Cartesian mind/body split, embodied consciousness and other philosophical and scientific theories of cognition and phenomenology. Additionally, the body of the reclining figure in The Grand Creative Process seems to be both male and female, much like those found in Salinger’s Judgment of Paris. Mariani is undoubtedly more skilled at his craft than Salinger, yet the end

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results are quite similar. Both employ classical or mannerist styles and techniques double-coded with contemporary concerns to create readings of traditional or popular narratives suitable to the age and society in which they were created. Other artists working under the strictures of National Socialism copied traditional forms even more directly. Leni Riefenstahl’s photograph Olympia: Living Statue presents viewers with the archetype of male strength and virility, in this case a German discus thrower, in a pose closely resembling that of Myron’s Discobolus. Myron’s classic sculpture was greatly admired by Hitler, for it showed “how splendid man used to be in the beauty of his body, and… we can speak of progress only when we have not only attained such beauty but even, if possible, when we have surpassed it!”9 Here we find evidence of the idealistic mode of thinking encouraged by the National Socialists in their aesthetic and social policy. Myron’s sculpture is idealized, not actual, a fact that is clearly seen when comparing the sculpture to its living copy. Here we find Jencks’s ‘popular and pluralist’ tendency, which he contrasts with the modern ‘utopian and idealist.’10 Riefenstahl’s Living Statue is an actual member of the population, showing the volkskorper, the body of the people (or an exemplary body to be worked towards), which is easily contrasted to the elongated and idealized body found in Myron’s statue. That the body of the athlete is an idealized body is of little importance, since this is an attainable and actual body. Though National Socialism was in some sense an idealized and utopian project (no matter how misguided), Riefenstahl’s photograph is popular, of the population, and pluralist, because through double coding it combines the two metanarratives of classicism and National Socialism. The photograph references both the Myron statue and the ideal of German male virility and power, reinforcing themes found in natal propaganda and other NSDAP social programs, while
9

10

quoted in Michaud, The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany, 148 quoted in Rose, The post-modern and the post-industrial: a critical analysis, 115
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also appealing to a popular audience for whom the propagandist nature of the imagery may only register unconsciously. This double coding may be made even clearer by comparing Riefenstahl’s photographs with works by Cindy Sherman, a currently living artist known for her postmodern practice of photography. In the 1990s, Sherman remade herself in the image of old master paintings, creating selfportraits that appropriate images from art history to comment on and critique contemporary social structures. For example, her 1990 photograph Untitled (#224) replicates Caravaggio’s Self Portrait as a Sick Bacchus. Employing makeup and costuming to transform herself into the mythological seducer in a sort of Butlerian drag performance, Sherman re-reads Caravaggio’s work as a critique of patriarchy and heteronormativity. Sherman’s works are clearly postmodern in the Jencksian sense, as they employ classical motifs to reflect on contemporary issues, and so we can identify a direct parallel between Sherman’s Bachus and Riefenstahl’s Living Statue. Both remake a classic work from art history to discuss contemporary issues. While Riefenstahl presents the ideal of male virility and power in NSDAP Germany, Sherman critiques patriarchy and heteronormativity in current Western capitalist society. Though the theoretical and historical models differ, the result is the same: a double coding of modernism with some other code. Sherman’s examination and critique of heteronormativity through her transformation of self into old master paintings is characteristic of certain impulses in postmodern art. The dissolution of the subject and the rejection of ‘normalcy’ (defined as white, heterosexual, and male) found in postmodernism may be viewed as antithetical to the National Socialist project. However, as sculptural works by Josef Thorak and Arno Breker show, NSDAP art often undermined the authority of the male heterosexual subject, depicting men as ultimately dependent and contingent on the state for survival and identity definition.

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Josef Thorak and Arno Breker both produced sculptures entitled Comradeship, which are meant to show the courage and brotherhood of the German people, though, as we will see, other issues arise in the work. Thorak’s sculpture of 1937 depicts two men holding hands and staring defiantly into the future. They are grotesquely muscled, with large hands and feet typical of mannerist figures, though somewhat clumsily modeled. At first glance, the men seem to be models of the ideal National Socialist warrior, strong-willed, superhuman, and ready for battle. However, their clasped hands and crossed legs betray an interdependence and familiarity seemingly uncharacteristic of modernist ideas of masculinity. This familiarity need not be read as a homosexual impulse, though authors and theorists have noted certain homosexual tendencies in NSDAP dogma.11 The friends are not individuals; they are a collective unity, entirely dependent on one another for strength and stability. This familiarity and unity reflects the volksgeist, the spirit of the German people that provides the basis for the Volksgemeinschaft. Their collective strength, however, betrays a dependence and vulnerability uncharacteristic of National Socialist policy, ultimately serving to undermine the spirit of the people and will of the party. Breker’s 1940 bas-relief continues the theme, though the scene has changed. No longer strong and defiant, yet still highly dependent on one another, one man cries out in anguish as he drags his comrade’s lifeless body to safety. If, in Thorak’s sculpture, the interdependence was implicit, here it is explicit. The figures are no longer grotesquely muscled supermen; they now appear emaciated and weakened, perhaps due to the escalating war. This image was likely meant to remind viewers of the necessity of sacrifice in ensuring the continued spread and success of the Reich and the Volksgemeinschaft. However, this image also seems to fail in its attempt to
11

see, for example, Geoffrey Gilles, “The Denial of Homosexuality: Same-Sex Incidents in Himmler’s SS and Police,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 11, no. 1 (2002)- 256-290; and Stefan Michler, “Homophobic Propaganda and the Denunciation of Same-Sex-Desiring Men under National Socialism,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 11, no. 1 (2002): 95-130
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bolster national pride. The expression of anguish shows neither the strength to carry on, nor confidence in National Socialist programs. Instead, his friend is dead, and the surviving man is left to carry the weight of failing social policy on his own, as pictured through the body of his friend. We may see Breker’s work as exhibiting the Jencksian postmodern signifier of ‘artist as representative and activist.’ Breker was lauded as the embodiment of NSDAP ideology, and was given a studio and large private residence in Paris, where he was provided with forced labor from French and Italian prisoners.12 He served on several cultural boards and played some role in looting artworks from occupied lands, yet he also worked to free certain Russian Jewish prisoners, though such activities were not entirely altruistic, thereby implying his dual role as representative and activist.13 In his Comradeship, we can clearly see this impulse. The work encourages viewers to remain confident in the success of the party, while simultaneously suggesting imminent defeat. This is further reflected in his Wounded (1942). The man is now alone, his comrades are dead or missing, and he is wounded, head in hand, bemoaning his fate and the state of the party in a pose of abject defeat. The wounded soldier, as representing the Volksgemeinschaft of 1942, is no longer strong, defiant, or brave. He appears unable to continue the struggle, though the battle rages on. It is interesting to note that by 1942 increasing numbers of children and elderly citizens began serving as soldiers and guards in the homeland, while the majority of able-bodied adult males fought on the various fronts. Wounded seems to reflect this; the wounded soldier bemoans his fate and the fate of his children. Here, as in virtually all works of NSDAP art, we find the double coding advocated by Jencks, a combination of classical or mannerist styles with
12

Petropoulos, “From Seduction to Denial: Arno Breker’s Engagement with National Socialism,” Art, Culture, and Media under the Third Reich, ed. Richard A. Etlin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 215-217 13 ibid., 215
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modern sensibilities. Breker’s handling of the figure, as in all of his works, refers to classical Greek and Roman sculpture, but without the sensitivity to proportion and harmony found in classical works. Harmony and proportion have been replaced by National Socialist dogma and stylistic prescription. We might compare this work of Breker’s to August Rodin’s famous Thinker of 1880-82. This is an obvious comparison, as the poses are virtually identical. However, where Rodin’s figure is subjective, egotistic, and contemplative, Breker’s is objective, idealized, and emotional, reflecting the NSDAP rejection of modern individualism and rationalism in favor of the Volksgemeinschaft. Rodin intended his sculpture to be part of a series depicting the Gates of Hell, influenced by Blake’s illustrations of Dante’s Inferno. The Thinker is Dante, seated before the door to Hell, contemplating his poem; as a figure, he symbolizes philosophy and poetry.14 The same can not be said of Breker’s work, which symbolizes only regret and shame; regret over the loss of friends and relatives to the war effort, and shame for the lack of strength and will exercised on the battlefield, as well as the direction National Socialism was taking the country. The attempt to reference classical ideas through modern materials and codes also extended to Architecture as well, as seen in Troost’s House of German Art. The House of German Art, completed in 1937, is a fine example of NSDAP neoclassical architecture, resembling numerous buildings in the western world. Interior spaces of the House of German Art closely resemble many other modernist museums, with large, high, open spaces lit by skylights, far removed from classical architecture and building techniques, although containing a lavish decor reminiscent of palaces throughout Europe. Troost made his reputation as a designer of luxury ocean liner interiors and extended this practice to his design of the House
14

Phelan, “Who is Rodin’s Thinker?” Artcyclopedia (August, 2001), http://www.artcyclopedia.com/feature-2001-08.html (accessed March 22, 2007)
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of German Art, creating a lavish monument to German culture, which was totally unjustifiable given the economic state of Germany at the time. The columns that line the front of Troost’s building are completely smooth cylinders, devoid of the sensitive fluting and tapering found in classical architecture, although they recall classical public buildings and the grandiosity of neoclassical construction. However, if we were to remove the classical arcade, this building could be one of the many modernist museums, office buildings, or parking garages found throughout the world. Despite the traditional building materials, the House of German Art contained the most modern environmental control and civil defense systems available at the time. This combination of traditional materials and styles with Modern equipment and techniques represents the simplest use of Jencksian double coding, albeit in a somewhat naive manner. Additionally, according to Hitler, “The building was also conceived of as a turning point that would put an end to the chaos of architectural dabbling we have seen in recent years.”15 We may see an echo of this in Jencks’s claim that “Modern architecture had failed to remain credible partly because it didn’t communicate effectively with its ultimate users … and partly because it didn’t make effective links with the city and history.”16 The return to classical form in an attempt to unify state architecture and communicate effectively with the public while remaining true to modern technological considerations can be seen throughout the architectural projects pursued and realized by the National Socialists, thereby tying NSDAP architecture to Jencksian doublecoding. In addition to the numerous works of art and architecture, National Socialist society exhibited certain elements of Jencksian postmodernism, especially the ideology of elitism and participation that Jencks advocates. Under NSDAP control, German society enjoyed a low crime
15 16

quoted in Hinz, Art in the Third Reich (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979), 8 Jencks, What is Post-Modernism?, 14
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rate and employment approaching one hundred percent. The National Socialists constructed numerous buildings and an extensive highway system that remain in use today. Of course the improvements in German society occurred only due to the exclusion of large numbers of the population through internment and genocide. Still, the remaining population did participate heavily in the National Socialist project, exalting the NSDAP leadership and making huge sacrifices in support of the war effort. Thus, the society was elitist and participative, though perhaps not in the way Jencks envisioned the process, since he advocated an end to totalitarianism in art and a move away from what might be called ‘authorial fascism,’ the absolute rule of creative genius over any other considerations. In Jencks’s mind, postmodernism in art and architecture put an end to the absolute authority of single individuals and codes, hence the various ideological impulses he mentions. However, although Hitler was the unquestioned and absolute ruler of National Socialist Germany, and the will of the state was imposed on the people, the ‘coding’ employed by Hitler and his advisors to define the role and content of art in the society was expanded and perpetuated by artists and the public at large. The NSDAP government was undoubtedly authoritarian, yet it only existed due to the support of the people: it was, under a certain interpretation, elitist and participative, popular and pluralist, complex and contradictory. “By the end of the regime, the motivating image[s]… had accelerated the production of motor roads, cannons, acropolises, suspension bridges, engines, seaside resorts, television projects, ‘cities of the dead,’ ruins, and worksites, all of which coexisted in confusion.”17 This confusion, between the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime and the beneficial social programs parallels the schizophrenic nature of postmodernism, further suggesting links between National Socialism and various theories of the postmodern.

17

Michaud, The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany, 219
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By way of a conclusion, through an examination of National Socialist genres and the genre form in general, as well as the concept of ‘realism’ in NSDAP society, the difficulties inherent in National Socialist aesthetic policy will become clear. The genre form developed in response to the rise of capitalism, which put an end to traditional forms of patronage, forcing artists to create works for unknown viewers and purchasers. This new market depended on the ability of artists to create an identifiable style and work with specific genre forms, thereby encouraging continued patronage. This stylistic branding made innovation and change extremely difficult, since buyers were unlikely to purchase unrecognizable works, dooming artists and the genre form itself to stagnation. Traditional themes in genre painting included landscapes, farming and hunting scenes, mothers and children, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and young women, amongst others. National Socialist art pursued similar themes but, as noted by Berthold Hinz, … in contrast to earlier genre painting … this new genre painting was weighed down with the task of proclaiming essential truths and making binding prophesies. Every child and every cow was now supposed to embody ‘the sacred mysteries of the natural order.’ This meant that children or cows - once they were painted - could no longer be what they were. They became masks of the proclaimed substance, masks that made up the face of the National Socialist system.18 This system of idealized mythology, though it tended to depict the material world, had little or nothing to do with realism. According to Hinz, “Objectivism is not realism if the objects depicted are not themselves drawn from the reality of the present.”19 In fact, realist painters in Germany had been among the first victims of the art purges, since the verism practiced by painters of the Weimar period depicted the capitalist, bourgeois world; a world that National Socialism attempted to destroy by claiming that it was egotistic and destructive. In contrast,
18 19

Hinz, Art in the Third Reich, 80 ibid.
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NSDAP art depicted a world that, if it ever existed, was no longer possible in modern western societies; a world of joyous labor, unified culture, and unending prosperity. The actual situation of National Socialist society was far different than the depictions found in painting, which were meant to prescribe ways of living and encourage activities and beliefs that would allow National Socialism to survive and thrive, despite its destructive character. The horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime left an indelible mark on world thought and any attempt to view National Socialist art divorced from its horrific social context is necessarily doomed to failure. However, by foregrounding the postmodern impulses found in National Socialist art, one may move discussion of the works beyond the traditional political, social, and psychological readings found in Hinz, Micheaud, and others, providing an additional understanding of the forces surrounding artistic production in the period. Additionally, when viewed in this way, the art of the Third Reich shows the existence of certain postmodern tendencies well before Jencks’s date of 1961.20 Though Jencks’s postmodern theory is not Nazi populism, as other authors charge, NSDAP art exhibits many of the ideological impulses of postmodernism defined by Jencks, as well as the double coding that characterizes his theory. Thus, Jencks’s theory seems a useful tool for describing controversial art works, uniting Modernism and postmodernism, and putting to rest some of the controversies in the postmodern debate, and National Socialist may be seen to serve a purpose beyond its destructive and propagandist origin.

20

Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, 3rd ed. (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1991), 11
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Bibliography Etlin, Richard A. Art, Culture, and Media Under the Third Reich. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Giles, Geoffrey. “The Denial of Homosexuality: Same-Sex Incidents in Himmler’s SS and Police.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 11, no. 1 (2002): 256-290. Hinz, Berthold. Art in the Third Reich. New York: Pantheon Books, 1979. Jencks, Charles. What is Postmodernism?. New York: Saint Martin’s Press, 1986. ---------- The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, 6th ed. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1991. Lyotard, Jean François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Theory and History of Literature 10. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984. Michaud, Eric. The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany, Cultural Memory in the Present, edited by Mieke Bal and Hent de Vries. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2004. Michler, Stefan. “Homophobic Propaganda and the Denunciation of Same-Sex-Desiring Men under National Socialism.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 11, no. 1 (2002): 95-130. Petropoulos, Jonathan. “From Seduction to Denial: Arno Breker’s Engagement with National Socialism.” In Etlin, Art, Culture, and Media under the Third Reich, 205-229. Phelan, Joseph. “Who is Rodin’s Thinker?” Artcyclopedia, August 2001. http://www.artcyclopedia.com/feature-2001-08.html (accessed 22 March 2007). Rose, Margaret A. The Post-Modern and the Post-Industrial: A Critical Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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