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Catalog for the Great German Art Exhibition, 1938

Great German Art Exhibit
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
View this Pamphlet

tags: leisure & recreation propaganda visual art

type: Pamphlet

On July 18, 1937 the first Great German Art Exhibition (Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung [GDK]) opened at the House of German Art in Munich. The exhibition, which occurred annually from 1937 to 1944, showcased hundreds of works by German artists.1 The exhibition invited works from older, already established artists and held an open competition for entries submitted by younger, lesser-known artists.2 The aim of the exhibition was to display, define, and sell "approved" German art, including oil painting, sculpture, watercolors, engravings, and photography. The 1937 exhibition saw an average of 3,200 visitors per day and attracted 400,000 visitors over its four-month run.3 

Exhibition pieces, some of which are advertised in the featured catalog, had to be produced by a "German" artist and approved by the Nazi government. In their calls for artists, the exhibition's organizers rejected the modernism of the early twentieth century in favor of "pure" German art. This requirement was unclear and often inconsistent, however—in the early years of the exhibition, Nazi policy on art had not been fully defined, and it was not clear what "pure" German art should look like. Seen here, selections from the 1938 catalog demonstrate the range of artistic styles appearing in the GDK.4 Some works reflected political themes, but others included scenes of warfare from World War I, statues reflecting Greek and Roman styles, landscapes, and studies of workers and peasantry.5

Hundreds of artists participated in the exhibition from 1937 to 1944. These included well-known Nazis, including well-known Nazis such as sculptor Arno Breker and many lesser-known German artists.6 Their motivations for submitting art for the exhibition are unclear, but scholar Ines Schlenker notes that, "participation in the GDK became one of the most important criteria for the relative importance of an artist in the Third Reich. Exhibiting at the GDK officially legitimized the artists to represent the nation, to be ambassadors of German art."7

According to Jonathan Petropoulos, the 1937 exhibition presented 884 works of art, chosen from 8,000 submitted pieces. Jonathan Petropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 59. 


Ines Schlenker, Hitler's Salon: The Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich 1937-1944 (Oxford, UK: Peter Lang, 2007), 116. 

Attendance at the exhibition was far exceeded by another art exhibition opening in Munich in 1937. The "Degenerate Art" exhibition saw an estimated 2,009,899 attendees, smashing records in Germany. See Jonathan Petropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 57. See also the related item Film of "Degenerate Art" Exhibition.


Some artists received invitations to submit their work for the GDK , despite already appearing in the "Degenerate Art" exhibition.

Pamela Potter, Art of Suppression: Confronting the Nazi Part of the Visual and Performing Arts (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016), 25.

Many artists who showed their work at the GDK in the 1930s later served in the German army as "war painters," tasked with depicting the battlefield.

Schlenker, Hitler's Salon, 77.

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The Great German Art Exhibition

In the House of German Art, Munich

Official Exhibition Catalogue

Page 12:

Julius Paul Junghanns

Hard Work

Page 20:

Albert Henrich



Page 31:

Werner Peiner

Girl with a Peacock


Page 60: 

Arno Breker



Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2004.453.1
Date Created
Page(s) Cover, 12, 20, 31, 60
Author / Creator
Haus der Deutschen Kunst
F. Bruckmann
Berlin, Germany
Munich, Germany
Document Type Pamphlet
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