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Catalog for the Great German Art Exhibition, 1938

Great German Art Exhibit
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Nazi regime and its supporters tried to reshape German society to fit Nazi ideas about race and national unity. Reshaping German culture was an important part of these efforts. Nazi leadership wanted to create a shared sense of national identity by defining what the regime considered to be good German art—and what it considered to be "degenerate."1

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 occurred annually from 1937 to 1944, and it showcased hundreds of works by selected German artists.2 The exhibition invited works from older, already established artists and held an open competition for entries submitted by younger, lesser-known artists.3 The aim of the exhibition was to display, define, and sell Nazi-approved German art, including oil paintings, sculptures, watercolors, engravings, and photographs. The 1937 exhibition saw an average of 3,200 visitors per day and attracted roughly 400,000 visitors over its four-month-long run.4

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 20th century in favor of more traditional and more simple artistic styles that supposedly reflected Nazi values in some way. But these requirements were unclear and inconsistent—in the early years of the exhibition, Nazi policies on art had not been fully defined, and it was not clear what styles or subjects would be accepted or rejected. Selections from the featured 1938 catalog demonstrate the range of artistic styles appearing in the GDK.5 Some works reflected political themes, but others included scenes of warfare from World War I, statues reflecting Greek and Roman styles, landscapes, or portraits of German workers and farmers.6

Hundreds of artists participated in the exhibition from 1937 to 1944. These included many lesser-known German artists as well as established artists and well-known Nazi Party members such as sculptor Arno Breker.7 The GDK became one of the most important art exhibitions in Nazi Germany. Participation in the GDK was a prestigious event for artists in the Third Reich and showed people that the regime supported their work.8

"Degenerate" was a word often used by Nazi propagandists to attack the perceived enemies of the regime. To learn more about so-called "degenerate art," see the related Experiencing History item, Film of "Degenerate Art" Exhibition.

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 so-called "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. 


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
How to Cite Museum Materials

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