The Art That Hitler Hated

At the Forest Edge, 1936
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

“Anybody who sees and paints a sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized.” Adolph Hitler


Stormtroops Advance Under Gas, 1924
Otto Dix

“Any art that does not glorify war is forbidden.” Nazi propaganda


Sitting Girl, 1910
Ernst Kirchner

“Garish colors and contorted poses of the female body are evidence of a depraved society.” Nazi propaganda


German art changed spectacularly after 1920. No longer did artists paint the classical Greek model.

The horrors of World War I, the terrible economic depression, prostitution, the chasm between the rich and the poor…all were bitterly protested in art.

German artists used bright garish colors, awkward poses and harsh brush strokes to shock the viewer with Germany’s tragic plight.

German Expressionism was born!

As a young man Adolph Hitler was refused admittance to art school in Vienna, Austria, on the basis of his lack of artistic ability. He never recovered from the rejection.

Hitler denounced German Expressionist artists and their extremely colorful paintings as “degenerate.”  They were evidence of a pollution in the Aryan strain. The artists who produced them were fired from their teaching positions, their works were removed from museum walls, and they were forbidden to paint again.

Some of these “degenerate” artists escaped to other countries, many of their works were hidden for years or secretly smuggled to America, and many, many works were burned.

Today German Expressionism is considered a momentous time in German art history, the paintings are back on museum walls and “degenerate” art is celebrated over the world.

Watch this video with wild colors and startling paintings-German Expressionism.
Click here if unable to view video.

Cornelia Feye, art historian, talks more on German Expressionism.
Click here if unable to view the video.

Leave a Comment



  1. Gigi Woodward February 20, 2013 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Kirby, Your art conversation starts my week off perfectly. I find myself revisiting it throughout the week. Thank you for giving us such smart and new approaches for each topic. Your video is very well done and added more visual depth to your already great blog. Thank you,

  2. Ruth February 20, 2013 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Thank you for the time and effort you spend on this. I’m an art lover but have ignored contemporary art all my life. Since I started reading your blog, I have gained a new appreciation, understanding and interest in art created in the last century.

  3. Vic DePratti February 20, 2013 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Hitler’s depraved views pervade much of post WW I Germany. As a young Austrian artist his artistic efforts were rejected. Although his artistic rejection is often related to his pathologic evolution, it’s more chronologic than causal. He successully poisoned much of the Germanic culture, be it music, authorship, art, or any form of creativity. Tragic beyond words, he lives only in infamy.

  4. Donna Turner February 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Kirby! I had always heard about banned art from the Hitler era, but I never knew what it was like. You open my eyes. It is good to be reminded of the social role that artists play in our world. These are very brave people.

  5. Margo February 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    You are such a pro at this! It’s amazing how much information you get down in such a small format. Your subjects are always interesting & educational. Keep it up! I can’t wait for the next installment!

  6. Lydia Pettis February 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Once again, I so value your ongoing art education and appreciation. Thinking about what you said and imagining Hitler denouncing this art, I told myself that in viewing art, it’s a good idea to get myself out of the way. Just take it in NOW and don’t try to make it fit what my limited experience tells me it’s supposed to fit. Guess that sounds like a Duh? or an understatement, but still I’m going to remember this priniciple as time goes on. Thank you, Kirby!!!!

  7. Dan Goldstein March 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    it was a pleasure watching your German Expressionism overview. Of course there was a similar purge and repression of composers – Paul Hindemith comes to mind. Thanks.!

  8. Diane Rudy June 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Thank you, Kirby for such enlightening commentary on these different expressions in art. I always feel exhilarated while reading and viewing your five star blog.
    Your the best!!

  9. David Kremenak June 22, 2013 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Well, Amiga Preciosa, maybe I can now enter a comment.
    Thank you so much for saving me the time and expense of travelling to Bella Venice to view the exhibition. Ai Weiwei’s quiet-but-determined protest puts a whole new perspective on “art as life.” I don’t think I like the boulders bound to buildings in Sarah Sze’s work, and Jerry Dellar’s deft jab at Prince Harry resonates less ponderously when weighed against Weiwei’s S.A.C.R.E.D. boxes, but, as always, thank you for your insouciant, thoughtful provocation.

  10. John Rippo August 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Found your card in a coffeehouse and read the blog. I like this and wonder if you care to have some of it published from time to time in my newspaper. If so, let’s have coffee soon. 619. 233-7242 or at the above address.

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