Special Topics in the Humanities: The Nazis and Art: Demeaning, Plundering, Restitution
Meets Together: History 328.005 and RCHUMS 334.007
This course investigates the Nazis and the art they promoted, demeaned, and plundered. Students will investigate Nazi theories of art in relation to issues of race, gender, and politics, and will attempt to understand why some works of art were admired, and others condemned. Of particular interest are the idealized images of Aryan men and women promoted by the Third Reich, which contrasted with figures represented in modern art. The course will study examples of art endorsed and condemned by the Nazis in painting, sculpture, architecture, and film. Of particular interest are the architectural plans of Hitler's architect, Albert Speer; sculpture and paintings by Arno Breker, Joseph Thorak, and Adolf Ziegler; the films of Leni Riefenstahl and others. Among the works studied are those demeaned by the Nazis, such as paintings of the German Expressionists, and other modernists like Chagall, Picasso, Kandinsky. A main focus of the course is the art exhibition of 1937 in Munich, known as the "Degenerate Art exhibit," organized by the Nazis to mock modern art as "insane," "Jewish," "perverted," and "Negro." We will examine the installation of the show, as well as the statements written on the walls, in order to determine how Nazi ideologies were intended to be conveyed through the public display of art as a tool of propaganda. Another area of considerable interest will be Hitler's plan to set up a museum in Linz of works confiscated during the war. Class discussion will focus upon what was collected for the museum, and will attempt to understand what lies behind these choices. The last part of the course will be devoted to the Nazi plunder of art and the ethical issues surrounding restitution to the families of Jewish survivors. A field trip to the University of Michigan Museum of Art will be arranged.
Textbooks/Other Materials: none, all readings are posted on Canvas.
Course Requirements: Two, take-home essay exams, class presentations, reading responses, class participation
Intended Audience: all undergraduates, anyone welcome
Class Format: lectures with discussion and class presentations
Estimated Cost of Materials: $0
HISTART Distribution Requirements: D. Europe and the US, E. Latin America, 3. Early Modern, 4. Modern and Contemporary
This course fulfills the LSA Humanities distribution requirement.