Jacqueline Strecker noted that Dresden was already a conservative city politically and that the newly appointed director of the Dresden Art Academy was even more conservative. The Lord Mayor of Dresden was dressed in full Nazi uniform when he toured the exhibition in 1933.
But what does it mean when we note that the first decadent art exhibition was put on by the Nazis in 1933 and not in 1937? Simple... the Nazis had clearly worked out their ideology as soon as they came to power! Thus no one in Germany could say in 1933 that they didn't realise what Nazism was going to mean for the country and its citizens.
The Reflections of Decadence exhibition from Dresden eventually toured to at least eight German cities between 1934 and 1936, before it was finally incorporated into the much larger and more infamous Degenerate Art Exhibition held in Munich. I don't have a catalogue from the Dresden show, so it is difficult to track the individual works of art by name. But I do know two of Dix's paintings, The Trench (1923) and War Cripples (1920), that appeared in the Dresden exhibition.
Further information about this elusive 1933 exhibition came from a most unlikely source. During archaeological excavations carried out in Berlin in 2010, 11 pieces of modernist art were unexpectedly dug up and revealed. Created between 1918 and 1930, these bronze and ceramic sculptures by Marg Moll, Emy Roeder, Edwin Scharff, Naum Slutzky, Karl Knappe, Gustav Heinrich Wolff, Otto Baum and Otto Freundlich had been declared degenerate and had been put into the Dresden exhibition.
Given that some 21,000 art works produced by Cubist, Expressionist, Dadaist, Fauvist, Surrealist and New Objectivity artists were about to be removed by the Nazis from museums, sold abroad (eg auctioned in Lucerne) to earn foreign exchange or thrown onto a bonfire (1,004 paintings), no-one had expected any of the 1933 art horde to be intact. I would love to know how these works ended up in a Berlin subterranean hidey hole. Was it a fan of modernism, hiding the works from Nazi predators? Or was someone so disgusted by modernist art that he/she buried the pieces to destroy them?
Some of these Dresden exhibits went on to be part of the infamous Nazi propaganda exhibition in Munich eg Marg Moll’s Dancer c1930, Emy Roeder’s Pregnant Woman 1918 and Otto Baum’s Girl Standing 1930. Were the other modernist artists (Käthe Kollwitz, Ernst Barlach, Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Otto Dix, Ernst, Max Beckmann, Gerhard Marcks, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Nagel, George Grosz and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff) not identified at degenerate as early as 1933? I am sure they were, but so far there is no evidence that their art was included in the Dresden exhibition. Or perhaps sculptures survived underground for 70 years or more, but paintings perished.
Dix, The Trench, 1923. Bought by the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.
The 11 art works dug up in 2010 offer a glimpse of the cultural wealth and vibrant artistry destroyed by the Nazis. They also point to the gaps that the thefts caused in museum collections. Fortunately some of the lost art objects can be seen in Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive.