Artist
Adolf Ziegler
Nazi artist

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Adolf Ziegler
Nazi artist
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Birth Date

1892

Death Date

1959

mwilson's picture

Contributor

We’ve all learned about the Nazi reign and the atrocities committed by them; while they were busy destroying Europe, though, Hitler also made sure to get his paws all over the culture of Nazi-controlled countries.

One of the main prerogatives of the Third Reich was to create a formula and an aesthetic policy for what art would look like in the new world order. Any work that received the Nazi stamp of approval would often be collected by the higher-ups of the party to show their stature: the bigger the collection, the higher the rank. Naturally, Hitler had the biggest collection out of the entire Nazi party which he’d cultivated for the planned future Führermuseum in Linz, Austria.

Collecting art for the Führermuseum was it’s own job, a job which Hitler labeled “Sonderauftrag Linz” or “Special Operation Linz." Sonderauftrag Linz sat in the lap of Joseph Goebbel, the Nazi Propaganda Minister. In June of 1937, Goebbel assigned Adolf Ziegler the task of whittling down the works for the Führermuseum.

Adolf Ziegler was Adolf Hitler’s favorite artist and president of the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts. Ziegler even painted a work called The Four Elements that Hitler hung above the fireplace in his personal home. Aside from being the centerpiece of the Fuhrer’s house, though, Ziegler is not particularly notable as an artist. He wasn’t a bad artist by any means, you could even describe his style as meticulously perfect. In his art, Ziegler did everything he could to fit the Third Reich’s formula of perfection while incorporating the Nordic nudes that Hitler loved. His only drawback was that he never pushed any kind of envelope.

The task that Goebbel assigned to Ziegler was to go to all of the museums in Nazi-occupied zones and confiscate any and all works that did not align with the Third Reich’s formula for aesthetic beauty. Ziegler collected hundreds of pieces of “degenerate art” including works by Emil Nolde, Kathe Kollwitz, Ernst Barlach, Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, and Pablo Picasso. Basically, any work of art made by a Jew or post-1910 was considered “undesirable.” So much work was collected that the Nazis were able to put on the Degenerate Art exhibition in July of 1937. It was meant to mock the artists in the show, to show how irrelevant these works really were, but the show ended up drawing a crowd estimated to be two million people strong.

In an unexpected turn of events, the Nazi actually sold some of the works at the exhibition and several more after the exhibition ended. Inspired, Ziegler was sent out to seize another 19,500 works and throw another degenerate art show. Any works deemed of value, the Nazi sold to the highest bidder to fund their military ventures. The works that didn’t sell were sent away to be destroyed in a massive bonfire outside of the Old Fire Station in Berlin…or were they?

Sources

Sources

  1. Lindsay, Ivan. The History of Loot and Stolen Art : From Antiquity Until the Present Day. London: Andrews UK, 2014. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed May 31, 2017).
  2. Späth, Daniela. "Conspiracies swirl in 1939 Nazi art burning | Culture | DW | 20.03.2014." Deutsche Welle.com. March 20, 2014. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.dw.com/en/conspiracies-swirl-in-1939-nazi-art-burning/a-17510022.
  3. Sooke, Alastair. "Degenerate art: The art the Nazis hated." BBC. March 06, 2014. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140306-the-art-the-nazis-hated.
mhoutzager's picture

Contributor

Born October 16, 1892 - Died September 18, 1959

Specialized in realistic nudes.

Was known among his fellow artists as "master of pubic hair".

Hitler loved him and hung his paintings in his home in Munich and in his mountain retreat.

Wore many hats, artist, politician, exhibition organizer, judge (of art).

He organized the infamous "Degenerate Art" exhibition to help educate people about the art that Hitler did not like.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Adolf Ziegler

Adolf Ziegler (16 October 1892 in Bremen – 18 September 1959 in Varnhalt, today Baden-Baden) was a German painter and politician. He was tasked by the Nazi Party to oversee the purging of what the Nazi Party described as "degenerate art", by most of the German modern artists. He was Hitler's favourite painter.

Life

Born to an architect father and a family of architects on his mother's side, Ziegler was always surrounded by artists. He studied at the Weimar Academy from 1910 under master of technique Max Doerner at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. However, the First World War interrupted his studies when he signed up to become a front-line officer. After the war, he settled in Munich and continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich in 1919, where he attended classes by art nouveau artist Angelo Jank. He ultimately achieved the position of professor at the Munich Academy in 1933, when the Nazis came to power. His works fitted the Nazi ideal of "racially pure" art, and, as the President of the Reich Chamber for the Visual Arts, he was entrusted with the task of eliminating avant-garde styles. This he did by expelling Expressionist artists such as Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Writing to Rottluff, he forbade him from any artistic activity "professional or amateur".

Already a member of the Nazi Party in the early 1920s, he met Hitler in 1925 and became one of his advisors in artistic matters. Hitler commissioned Ziegler to paint a memoriam portrait of his niece, Geli Raubal, who had committed suicide. In 1937 he painted the Judgement of Paris, which Hitler personally acquired some time later, hanging it in his residence at Munich—Hitler later also hung Ziegler's The Four Elements at a residence in Munich. It became an overnight sensation through frequent reproduction. This painting was much liked, judging by the enormous numbers of postcards and reproductions of it sold. The National Socialist celebrations of the human figure without conflict or suffering were immensely popular. By this time, Ziegler had become the foremost official painter of the Third Reich and was awarded the Golden Party Badge, in recognition for outstanding service to the Nazi Party or State.

Not much is known about his early works except that his early style exhibited modernist forms. Exiled museum director Alois Schardt noted in the late thirties that Ziegler was

in former times a modern painter and a zealous admirer of the works of Franz Marc.…His transmutation proceeded by slow degrees.…before he took this position, he was one of the most extreme modern painters, but one of inferior rank.

There are no examples of such early works. He gave up the modern style for a representational and realistic style in the 1920s, during which time he had increased contact with Hitler. Ziegler exhibited eleven canvases at the Great German Art Exhibitions at the House of German Art between 1937 and 1943. A technically accomplished painter, Ziegler was known for mainly floral compositions, genre paintings, allegorical paintings inspired by Greek mythology, portraits, and numerous female nudes. His static, pseudo-classical nudes depicted ideal Aryan figures. In an interview with American playwright Barrie Stavis, Ziegler explained that a painting of a beautiful nude German woman encourages the ideal of a perfect body and gives German men the incentive to have many German children. However, the artistic ‘naturalism’ of the racially pure figures left nothing to the imagination, earning him the disparaging nickname of ‘Meister des Deutschen Schamhaares' ("Master of German Pubic Hair").

Role in the Degenerate Art Exhibition

Ziegler occupied several important administrative positions during the Third Reich. He was appointed Senator of the Fine Arts at the Reich Chamber of Culture in 1935. Propaganda Minister Goebbels later appointed him to the Presidential Council, then vice-president of the Reich Chamber of Art. Finally, on December 1, 1936, he succeeded architect Eugen Hönig as president of the Chamber of Art, which then had 45,000 members. Ziegler's replacement of Hönig as president was a clear signal of the Reich's growing distaste for nonconformity in the arts.

Ziegler served as the president of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1937.

Ziegler headed a five-man commission that toured state collections in numerous cities, hastily seizing works they deemed degenerate. The works were then rushed to Munich for installation in the narrow rooms of the Hofgarten arcade for display, including some 16,000 examples of expressionist, abstract, cubist and surrealist works of art. The paintings of such "degenerate" artists, including the works of Max Beckmann and Emil Nolde, were confiscated on Ziegler's orders as head of the sluice commission. Ziegler managed to organize the Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich in less than two weeks. On July 19, 1937, he opened the exhibition and condemned those museum directors from whose collections the works came and their tolerance of the decadent art.

During the Second World War, Ziegler was temporarily sent to a prison camp after he publicly expressed doubts about the viability of Hitler's campaign. When Hitler was notified of Ziegler's “defeatist” attitude, he ordered his arrest. Ziegler was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp for six weeks. However, Hitler personally ordered that he be released from Dachau and be allowed to retire.

Because his paintings were so closely associated with National Socialism, Ziegler was unable to successfully revive his career as an artist after the war. He repeatedly petitioned for reappointment to the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich from 1955 to 1958, but was denied because the Academy determined that he initially received the position due to Hitler's personal appointment. There were some reports that Ziegler exhibited works in 1955 at the Ben Uri Gallery in London, but the gallery's records indicate the artist was an “Adolf Zeigler,” a Jewish painter from London, not the German Ziegler. He also wrote a response to Paul Ortwin Rave's first-hand accounts of the Entartete Kunst exhibition in Munich, arguing with Rave's assertions, but experts like Rave were not ready to analyze his standpoint objectively at that time. Unable to revive his career, Ziegler lived quietly in the village of Varnhalt near Baden-Baden for the last years of his life. He died in September 1959, at the age of sixty-seven.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Adolf Ziegler.