"Anybody who paints and sees a sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized."--Adolf Hitler
"We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand."--Pablo Picasso
In the 20th Century, the general perceptions of art and artists evolve. Instead of having one specific style and technique generally used by all artists, several very different movements exist simultaneously and over a short period of time. Art still retains the propagandistic appeal of reaching the masses but more and more artists begin to incorporate their own personal political beliefs into their artwork instead of expressing the beliefs of the commissioner of the artwork. Artistic subject matter becomes more in tune with current events instead of biblical fables. The suppression and poverty of the masses becomes a popular theme, as well as the reality of daily life. The two world wars provide artists with a plethora of ideas for images and topics and much art with themes of war, mass destruction and death was produced.
War evokes extreme emotional responses from
every side involved. Wartime art reflects the strong opinions of those
condemning or condoning the reasons for war. No topic will generate images
with such strong political and cultural messages like war. Both artists
and propagandists realize the emotion-laden images produced by war work
to change and strengthen people's views on wartime issues. Wartime art
serves to signify a nation's identity, symbolizing customs and cultural
heritage and reinforcing nationalism. Most war art tries to either heighten
individual's feelings of patriotism or emphasize the cruelties of destruction.
Both of these messages can be incorporated literally or symbolically into
a work of art.
One of the most well-known occurrences of high art becoming war propaganda art simply through historical context involved the German artists at the beginnings of World War II. In 1937 the Third Reich organized two concurring art exhibitions: Entartete Kunst(Degenerate Art) and the Grosse Deutsche Kuntausstellung(Great German Art Exhibition). At the time that Hitler first gained power in the German government, the most popular movement in German art revolved around German Expressionism, which did not resemble Hitler's neoclassical stylistic preferencse. Hitler staged the huge Entartete Kunst exhibition to show the German population how these artists corrupted and tainted society; even the word "degenerate" in the German vocabulary refers to the insane, which in turn alludes to the jews. In contrast, the Grosse Deutsche Kuntausstellung exhibited works of art officially approved by the Third Reich and based exclusively on German racial tradition, giving the population a means to compare "good" and "bad" art. Entartete Kunst served to reinforce the great myth of the Aryan race superiority into the minds of the German people, and in this way became a form of propaganda.
To get a little more information on the
German degenerate art and take a virtual tour of works included in the
exhibition, you can look at Examples
of Entartete Kunst artists or photos
from Entartete Kunst
Considered one of the most famous anti-war works of art, Pablo Picasso's Guernica(1937), symbolically shows the emotional nightmare of battle. Commissioned for the Spanish pavilion of the 1937 Paris World's Fair, Guernica depicts the brutal bombing and destruction of the Basque town Guernica during the Spanish revolution. Picasso himself described Guernica as a work of deliberate propaganda, but he did not state precisely what the portrait meant. One of the most analyzed and discussed paintings of the 20th Century, Guernica obviously is an allegorical work. The bull has been assumed to represent Franco or fascism, and the horse to symbolize the Republic or the people. Like most modern propaganda, the intended meaning of Guernica is dependent on the title and context in history. A large proportion of propaganda posters would lack clear meaning without their written slogans. Propaganda images are rarely created to stand independently.