Library explores British defence of German ‘degenerate art’

They were often innocuous landscapes, conservative portraits and colourful modernist abstract paintings of nothing in particular, but to the Nazis the artworks were “sick”, “twisted” and “filth”.

The story of German “degenerate art” and the British defence of it is to be told in a display opening to the public on Wednesday at the Wiener library in London, the world’s oldest archive of material on the Holocaust and the Nazi era.

It will tell the story of a groundbreaking exhibition of German art held in July 1938 at the New Burlington galleries in London as a direct response to the famous “degenerate art” exhibition staged by the Nazis in Munich in 1937.

The latter displayed works by artists including Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, with labels such as “an insult to German womanhood” and “nature as seen by sick minds”. The former

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