Symposium, Digital

Expressionism Revisited
Panel II: Nationale Expressionismen (DE)

The panel Nationale Expressionismen focuses on the intersections between German Expressionism, national reform efforts, and National Socialist ideology. It examines the connections between expressionist form and “völkisch” content through the discussion of works that were perceived to be “genuinely German” at the time, illustrating the instrumentalisation of art through nationalist interpretations. The panel also discusses the artists’ decision to choose either stylistic change or stylistic continuity in response to political developments and ruptures, particularly after 1945.

Host: Prof. Dr. Aya Soika (Bard College Berlin)

Prof. Dr. Aya Soika teaches art history at Bard College Berlin. Her research interests are in the field of 20th-century modernism, in particular German Expressionism. In 2019 she was co-curator of Emil Nolde - A German Legend. The Artist during the Nazi Period (Neue Nationalgalerie at Hamburger Bahnhof) and “Escape into Art?”, a show on the Brücke artists during the Third Reich (Brücke-Museum Berlin). As the author of the catalogue raisonné of Max Pechstein’s oil paintings (2011) and a Handbook on the genre of the catalogue raisonné (2023), she is interested in the intersection between art history and its practices.


Christina Brinkmann M.A. (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg): Expressionistische Wandmalereien in einem völkischen Museum (DE)

By examining the expressionist wall paintings by Paul Thiersch (1879–1928), Lili Schultz, Klara Kuthe, and Johanna Wolff, created in 1919 for the Provinzialmuseum für Vorgeschichte in Halle (Saale), this discussion will focus on the Germanic mythological image program, the ideological and personal connections within the circle around Stefan George, the museum’s overall concept with völkisch elements, and the reception of the artwork up to the present day.

Christina Brinkmann works as a research associate at the Department of Art History at the University of Halle. She studied German Language and Literature and Art History in Halle, Munich, and Paris, as well as Art Sciences in Halle and Vienna. Currently, she is working on a dissertation on the history of the Burg Giebichenstein School of Arts and Crafts in Halle during the National Socialist era. She has been involved in several exhibition projects, including Because We Are Young (Raum für Kunst Halle 2021), which explores the industrial, cultural, and migration history of a railway construction company.


Nora Jaeger (Ruhr-Universität Bochum): Eine expressionistische Künstlergruppe im Nationalsozialismus: Der Norden (DE)

The presentation will focus on the artist group Der Norden, which sought to establish a connection between expressionist modernism and National Socialism, aligning themselves with the tradition of selected former Brücke artists such as Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde, or Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. This presentation will delve into the well-connected members of the artist group Der Norden and examine the contemporary reactions to their eponymous traveling exhibition. Exploring the activities of this artist group raises the question of how they can be contextualized within the art-political disputes and debates of the early years after 1933.

Nora Jaeger studied art history and archaeology in Münster and Bochum. Since 2015, she has worked in various museums and exhibition venues, including the Bundeskunsthalle, Deichtorhallen, and Gropius Bau. She served as a curatorial assistant at the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum and as a research associate at the Provenance Research, Art, and Cultural Heritage Protection research center. Since 2019, she has been pursuing her doctoral degree on Otto Andreas Schreiber, supported by a doctoral scholarship from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung, and her research focuses on art policy during the National Socialist era.


Wolfgang Brauneis (Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft): Welches Schweinderl hätten’s denn gern? Die Skulpturen Willy Mellers zwischen NS-Monumentalismus und Nachkriegsexpressionismus (DE)

The lecture delves into the broader context of artists’ adaptability and explores the rehabilitative functions that a style related to expressionism can potentially assume. Specifically focusing on the sculptor Willy Meller (1887–1974), who was included in Hitler and Goebbels’ „Gottbegnadeten-Liste“ in 1944, it raises intriguing questions: How do we retrospectively evaluate a sculptor whose works exhibited moderate expressionist qualities in the 1920s, later evoking associations with Ernst Barlach rather than Josef Thorak in the 1960s, and who, in the interim, designed monumental pieces for Nazi Ordensburgs? Moreover, what significance does it hold when someone produces art for both the German perpetrators before and the German victims after 1945? In this context, the role of expressionism is also examined.

Wolfgang Brauneis lives and works as an art historian and curator in Cologne and Nuremberg. In 2021, he curated the exhibition “Divinely Gifted”. National Socialism’s Favoured Artists in the Federal Republic at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, and last year, he curated the exhibition Return the Gift! The Controversy Surrounding Die Frau Musica on Hermann Kaspar at the Meistersingerhalle Nuremberg. He is the director of the Kunstverein Nürnberg – Albrecht Dürer Gesellschaft and is examining its history during the Nazi era and post-war decades as part of a research and exhibition project.


Dr. Ilka Voermann (Berlinische Galerie): Karl Hofer als Repräsentant der West-Berliner Kunstszene vor und nach 1945 (DE)

The artist Karl Hofer (1878–1955), based in Berlin, had close ties to the Brücke artists, yet he differs in various ways, particularly in terms of his reception during and after the National Socialist era. To this day, some of the works he created during the Nazi regime are described as “visionary” and “foreseeing the impending doom.” But is this truly accurate? What is the origin of this particular reception? How do Hofer’s beliefs and his body of work relate to each other, and what comparisons can be drawn, for example, to Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Max Pechstein?

Dr. Ilka Voermann studied art history, classical archaeology, and modern and contemporary history in Münster and Mainz. From 2011 to 2012, she worked as a research assistant and associate researcher at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, where she was responsible for the exhibition Willi Baumeister International. Between 2014 and 2017, she served as a curatorial fellow at the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, actively involved in the planning of the exhibition Inventur–Art in Germany, 1943–55. As a curator at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt from 2017 to 2022, she realized exhibitions such as Art for No One. 1933–1945 and Chagall. World in Turmoil. Since August 2022, Ilka Voermann has been the director of the Print Collection at the Berlinische Galerie.

This is a closed event with a limited number of participants. The event will be digitally broadcast live.
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