The German Art Society and the battle for "pure German" art, 1920-1945 / Joan L. Clinefelter.
The term "Weimar culture" typically brings to mind images of the avant-garde and the political Left. However, there was another side to Weimar culture: that of the culturally conservative and politically radical Right. The dissertation analyzes one facet of right-wing culture by focusing on the German Art Society (Deutsche Kunstgesellschaft), a volkisch artists' interest group active between 1920 and 1945. The study examines the Society's mission to defend its vision of a racially and aesthetically pure German art, its battle against the republic, and its experience under the Nazi regime. The German Art Society offers insight to the crisis of bourgeois hegemony in the cultural sphere. During the Weimar Republic, the old guardians of traditional German art saw themselves superseded by the avant-garde. The German Art Society gave these artists a voice and promoted a cultural mission: to combat "degenerate" modernism, and defend their claims to cultural legitimacy. To press their demands, Society members cultivated alliances with other volkisch organizations throughout the republic. By late 1932, the German Art Society forged a network of supporters in the Nazi party and leading right-wing organizations that enabled it to survive during the Third Reich. Initially, the Third Reich offered the German Art Society unprecedented opportunities to realize its anti-modernist mission. Its travelling art show offered a first glimpse as to what constituted German art in the new regime. And, the Society played a leading role in organizing early "degenerate art" exhibitions. However, after 1937, the National Socialists began to search for a distinctly Nazi art form. Although the Society continued to exist, the volkisch group was viewed as old-fashioned and largely ignored. Throughout, the dissertation demonstrates that 1933 does not represent a clean break between "Weimar" and "Nazi" culture; instead, there was an intermediary element that mediated between the two. Volkisch culture, developed over several decades by organizations like the German Art Society, provided the Nazi regime with its artists, its cultural experts, and its anti-modernist cultural program.
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