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  • An Artist against the Third Reich: Ernst Barlach, 1933–1938 by Peter Paret
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An Artist against the Third Reich: Ernst Barlach, 1933-1938 by Peter Paret

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Publisher : Cambridge University Press
Binding : Hardcover
Pages : 246
Publication Date : 3/24/2003
Condition : BRAND NEW
The conflict between National Socialism and Ernst Barlach, one of the important sculptors of the twentieth century, is an unusual episode in the history of Hitler's efforts to rid Germany of 'international modernism.' Barlach did not passively accept the destruction of his sculptures, but protested the injustice, and continued his work. Peter Paret's discussion of Barlach's art and struggle over creative freedom, is joined to an analysis of Barlach's opponents. Hitler's rejection of modernism, often dismissed as absurd ranting, is instead interpreted as a internally consistent and politically effective critique of liberal Western culture. That some radical national socialists nevertheless advocated a 'nordic modernism' and tried to win Barlach over, indicates the cultural cross-currents running through the early years of the Third Reich. Paret's closely focused study of an artist in a time of crisis seamlessly combines the history of modern Germany and the history of modern art. Peter Paret is Mellon Professor in the Humanities Emeritus of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Spruance Professor Emeritus at Stanford University. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, which awarded him the Thomas Jefferson Medal and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The German government has awarded him the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit. His other works include, German Encounters with Modernism, 1840-1945 (Cambridge, 2001), Imagined Battles: Reflections of War in European Art (Univ, of NC, 1997), The Berlin Secession: Modernism and its Enemies in Imperial Germany (Harvard, 1989), and Clausewitz and the State (Oxford, 1985). From Publishers Weekly Before Hitler's mission to weld Nazi ideology to art produced in the Reich, modernists and National Socialists met their ill-defined enmity with fumbling hands. Paret (German Encounters with Modernism) views the clash through the career of Barlach (1870-1938) who emerges from this meticulous study paradoxically steadfast and yet destroyed. After 1933, the then renowned artist continued to sculpt and sketch broad-planed, fine-lined figures possessed of an earthy grace, and to proclaim that "[n]othing can be more certain than that art is not subject to the strictures of a political view of the world." As internal party factions sought correlatives to the "un-German" art that Hitler reviled, this avowedly apolitical work became a locus of rhetorical contest: vanguards proclaimed its Nordic virility while conservatives denounced its alien distortion. Paret finds that Barlach, in the beginning, had no clue of the magnitude of his affront to the manic radicals who finally deemed his drawings "`likely to endanger public safety and order.'" Ultimately, Barlach was disowned by the state that might have embraced him: cultural police moved his work from museum to warehouse, from the office of Goebbels (an early admirer) to the 1937 "Degenerate Art" exhibit. He died of a heart attack the next year. While Paret charts this history with graceful clarity, his appraisals of the sculptures sometimes want aesthetic defense. It's unclear, for instance, why certain pieces would "seem to belong not to a national or even an international world, but to a world that is non-national." Still, he succinctly assesses the artist's threat to the Nazi agenda-in particular, by setting Barlach's spare, mournful monuments to World War I against popular tributes to the invincible Reich. Wholly compelling yet never celebratory, Paret's account (including 38 halftones) grants Barlach his long-due regard in English. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.