Creative Synesthia: Degenerate Art (M. Sharp)

When I look at the 1937 catalogue cover for Entarte Kunst (Degenerate Art), I immediately imagine the smell of smoke and decay. This is in part because of the dark palette of the image, as well as the rough, smoky texture of the 1912 Otto Freundlich sculpture Der Neue Mensch (The New Man) which is featured on the cover. The association, however, must also be in part due to the depressing implications behind this design.

The fact that has always stuck with me about the “Degenerate Art” exhibition was that it was actually far better attended and more well-regarded than the concurrent “Great German Art Exhibition,” which was full instead of Hitler-approved works. That it should have been entirely clear to the Nazi regime that the works displayed in “Degenerate Art” were of true cultural significance and value makes it all the more tragic that these works were destroyed, censored and suppressed for years to come. I think this chaos and backwardness is what brings to mind the sensation of needless destruction.

degenerate art
Anonymous, Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) catalogue cover, 1937. Features Otto Freundlich, Der Neue Mensch (The New Man), 1912.

Sources:

Eskilson, S. Graphic Design: A New History. Yale University Press, 2007.

Ginder, U. “Munich 1937: The Development of Two Pivotal Art Exhibitions.” 2004. Retrieved from <http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/133c/133cproj/04proj/GinderNaziArt047.htm>