Student lectures on Hitler’s idea of art

An informational presentation entitled “Hitler and Degenerative Art,” for the Let’s Talk: Art lecture series was given on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Hammond Regional Arts Center. The monthly series is sponsored by the department of fine and performing arts, the Friends of Sims Library and the Hammond Regional Arts Center.

The lecture was presented by senior art history major Cayla Johnson and focused on Hitler and his influence on art during the Third Reich.

Having studied abroad in Germany in 2009, Johnson gave presentations while there on degenerative art. Up until now, Johnson had been researching the subject more to elaborate on her topic. Johnson’s research then led her to find out about the Friends of Sims Library and their series of art talks and decided to volunteer as a presenter.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to give me experience in speaking in front of people,” said Johnson.

The lecture itself gave background information on Hitler as well as the reasoning behind degenerate art, which is art that Hitler did not find acceptable and thought falsely represented the German, or Nazi, ideal.

Johnson then gave different examples of works of art that were considered degenerate, including artists such as Kandinsky, Max Ernst and Marc Chagall were derided for their works and made examples of by Hitler and the Nazi party.

“This art was called degenerate,” said Johnson. “Degenerate art was art the Third Reich considered ugly, grotesque and un-German. Hitler wanted to refine art.”

Amy Morris, an assistant art history professor at Southeastern, was with Johnson during the study abroad trip to Germany.

“She has done a lot of research,” said Morris. “I think what she really elaborated on this time was talking about how the exhibition was laid out, specific art that was in the exhibition and really elaborated on why they were considered to be bad art by the Germans.”

Johnson went over different aspects of degenerative art. She gave details on not only degenerative art, but also how the exhibition was shown in Germany. Eric Johnson, director of Sims Memorial Library and board member of the Hammond Regional Arts Center, was present for her exhibition and enjoyed the look into German art.

“I loved the way she basically gave a guided tour through the degenerative art exhibit,” said Eric Johnson. “It was wonderful.”

The Let’s Talk: Art series will continue with the next presentation being given by art history professor Dr. Irene Nero on “Revising Realism: Audrey Flack Versus the Abstract Expressionists.” It will be held on Thursday, March 17 at 12:30 p.m. in Sims Memorial Library.

For more information on the Let’s Talk: Art series, contact the Sims Memorial Library by phone at 985-549-3860, or the Hammond Regional Arts Center at 985-542-7113.