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“Im Dienst der Nation”

When art is subservient to nationalism

Munich, 05/25/2011

Even today, the combination of art and nationalism makes for a dangerous cocktail, as the art historian Dr. Martina Baleva of the Academy of of Sciences Berlin-Brandenburg discovered some years ago. She had shown that the painting “The Massacre at Batak” by the Polish artist Antoni Piotrowski was based on staged photographs and is essentially a propagandist work, and she soon found herself on the receiving end of threats from Bulgarian nationalists. Baleva’s findings provoked such an extreme reaction because the canvas has been instrumental in establishing Batak as a site of cultural memory, a location that rapidly came to stand for 500 years of oppression of the Bulgarians by the Ottoman Turks. An essay by Baleva, entitled “Foreign Artists – Native Myths”, can be found in the new book “Im Dienst der Nation. Identitätsstiftungen und Identitätsbrüche in Werken der bildenden Kunst”, edited by Dr. Matthias Krüger of the Institute of Art History at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich and Dr. Isabella Woldt of Hamburg University. The volume includes studies on Expressionist contributions to the movement “neue deutsche Kunst”, the invention of a Czech national style, and the series of self-portraits painted by Giorgio de Chirico. Architecture also figures in its pages, with articles on urban planning in Rome -- the former capital of the Papal States -- following the unification of Italy, on church architecture in Washington, and on the instrumentalization of Limburg Cathedral for ideological purposes by the Nazis. LMU art historian Professor Burcu Dogramaci contributes a paper on the Atatürk Mausoleum in Ankara, while Matthias Krüger traces how Emil Nolde intentionally manipulates the colors of his native landscape in his works. In this last essay, entitled “Die Farben der Heimat”, Krüger demonstrates that color was not a neutral means of expression for Nolde, but was fraught with nationalistic overtones. Krüger writes: “The rich palette which the artist loved to use to depict the Frisian marsh was chosen not least for reasons of ideology.” (suwe/PH)


„Im Dienst der Nation“
Matthias Krüger und Isabella Woldt
Akademie Verlag, 417 pages, 18 May 2011
ISBN: 978-3050049366

Dr. Matthias Krüger
Institute of Art History, LMU Munich
Phone: +49 (0) 89 / 2180 - 3718

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