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date: 19 February 2020

Entartete Kunst [Ger.: ‘degenerate art’.]locked

  • Anita Kühnel

Extract

[Ger.: ‘degenerate art’.]

Term used by the Nazis in Germany from the 1920s to refer to art that did not fall into line with the arts policies of National Socialism, chiefly avant-garde work. The term ‘degenerate art’ has been used generally to describe art perceived as signifying decay, and usually forms of art production in chronological proximity (see also Decadence and decline). It has been used in a polemical context to enhance the value of a specific aesthetic viewpoint. The first known example is the assessment made by the Italian bourgeoisie of the 14th century of medieval art as a barbaric relapse when compared with antiquity. The Italian writer and statesman Niccolò Machiavelli employed the term ‘degeneration’ (corruzione) in his Discorso of 1581. It was used by Giovanni Pietro Bellori in his polemic against Giorgio Vasari and Michelangelo. It is also used generally to mean irregular or against the rules, in contrast with the dominant aesthetic trend, which is set up as the rule. In this sense the term ‘Baroque’ was also initially intended to be disparaging. At the end of the 19th century the term was used in association with Nietzsche’s concept of decadence. It was later used in this sense by ...

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