by Christopher Hutchinson
To Winckelmann, the art of Rome was an afterthought. The pinnacle of ancient art had been achieved in fifth-century Athens, whose democracy was the root cause of her excellence. The decline of art began with the establishment of the Hellenistic kingdoms following the death of Alexander. The moral lesson to be drawn from ancient history was not the danger of pagan hubris but rather the superiority of democracy.
Art & Supremacy
From its inception art history has been tied to Supremacy. Johann Winckelmann, author of the first History of Ancient Art 1764, whose sentiments are stated above, set the rubric as to what could and should be considered art. Many assume that art history has always been in existence. Truthfully it officially begins with Winckelmann and Neoclassical thought. True to Neoclassical thought, there can be only one way to achieve art, and is through Democracy.
This democracy has been one of the major reasons why Greece has become the go-to standard as the beginning of art praxis. This allows a global nullification of art produced by second and third world countries. Winckelmann’s democracy becomes synonymous with supremacy.
It is completely logical that the art of the Third Reich would adopt the standard of supremacy set by Winckelmann. Even the rebirth of humanism laid in the Renaissance and art movements that follow after, have a conceptual tie to that superiority that cannot be overlooked. The linear practice of Western art theory/methodology has these roots. Hitler was aware of this obvious relationship. His crowning achievement, after dominating the world, was to be his Museum of Art.
The museum was to have occupied the majority of the city center of Linz, turning the working-class town into Vienna’s cultural superior, a concept that Hitler had relished ever since his failed attempt to become an art student in Vienna, a city that made him feel like a rejected, second-class citizen, prior to his political career
Art & Propaganda
: ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.
1capitalized : a congregation of the Roman curia having jurisdiction over missionary territories and related institutions
2: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
3: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect
Art of the Third Reich has often been linked with the term propaganda as something negative. Propaganda is usually perceived as the binary opposite to democracy. This would be the traditional understanding, except for the seamless transition Hitler’s propaganda and the history art already present. Ziegler’s direct appropriation of Ruben’s Judgement of Paris 1636 is a testament to the farce of democracy. How could this be propaganda, when this narrative was already present?
Christopher Hutchinson is an Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga, and Smoke School of Art Founder. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. He lived in Alabama for 10 years before moving to Atlanta in 2008.
Learn more about Christopher and his work at Black Flight 144.