The Wiener Library’s summer 2018 exhibition explores the history and context of an exhibition held in 1938 at the New Burlington Galleries in London entitled Twentieth Century German Art. 2018 marks the eightieth anniversary of this exhibition, which was the most prominent international response to the Nazi campaign against ‘degenerate’ art. It remains the largest display of twentieth-century German art ever staged in Britain. The show featured over three hundred examples of modern German art, by exactly those artists who had faced persecution in Germany: the exhibition in London in 1938 was an attempt to defend them and their work on a world stage.

The Wiener Library’s exhibition tells the story of the Third Reich’s campaign against ‘degenerate’ art and this response in London in 1938. The exhibition features a small number of the original artworks from the New Burlington Galleries’ exhibition, including works by Emil Nolde and Max Slevogt, presented with the stories of their lenders in 1938. The show will also include items from The Wiener Library’s unique archival collections.

London 1938 event series

  • The Institutionalisation of German Modernism and the Ensuing Backlash, the 1920s and 1930s. Dr. Shulamith Behr. 28 June 2018. 
  • The Loss and Recovery of so-called ‘Degenerate Art’. Richard Aronowitz-Mercer. 4 July 2018.
  • The International Reaction to the “Degenerate Art” Campaign. Dr. Lucy Wasensteiner. 12 July 2018. 
  • ‘As much as I have an accent in my language, I have an accent in my painting’: Émigré Artists in Britain after 1933. Monica Bohm-Duchen. 18 July 2018.
  • Suppressed Music. A live performance by Fran & Flora. 26 July 2018. 
  • Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism. Michael Tymkiw. 29 August 2018. 

Exhibition Highlights

Max Slevogt, Der Panther, 1931

Max Slevogt (1868-1932) was a German impressionist painter, and this is one of at least six Max Slevogt paintings loaned to Twentieth Century German Art by Dr János Plesch and his wife Melanie.

Max Liebermann (1847-1935), photographed by Gerty Simon

A number of works by German impressionist Max Liebermann featured in the Twentieth Century German Art exhibition in London in 1938. Liebermann’s work was denounced by the Nazis as ‘degenerate’ because he was Jewish. 

Original Catalogue of the Twentieth Century German Art exhibition (1938), featuring Franz Marc’s Blue Horses

Franz Marc (1880-1916) was a German expressionist painter and founder of Der Blaue Reiter movement. He was labelled as a ‘degenerate’ artist by the Nazi regime and his work was removed from German galleries. 

Related blogs

The Wiener Library has a team of volunteers who contribute regularly to our blog. The following articles may be of interest to those interested in learning more about ‘degenerate’ art. 

This exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual (German-English) catalogue. The London 1938 project is being organised in collaboration with Liebermann-Villa am Wannsee, Berlin, where a companion show entitled London 1938: mit Kandinsky, Liebermann und Nolde gegen Hitler (London 1938: with Kandinsky, Liebermann and Nolde against Hitler) will run from October 2018 to January 2019.

Supported by Sotheby’s and the German Federal Cultural Foundation.