January 31, 2011
Arno Breker Week: Despicable Man, Good Sculptor
Arno Breker was an artist I doubt you will hear mentioned in Art History books or on Sister Wendy's PBS art appreciation shows. Breker was a member of the Nazi party, took many commissions from them and was considered the antithesis of so-called "degenerate art." There are some who say he was never a supporter of the Nazi ideology, but by working for them he most definitely did support their cause and there is no excusing him. If Breker didn’t support their ideology, but supported their movement, that just shows what an anti-self person he was in addition to being a murdering racist. He should have shrugged, but didn't.
However, I think he was a good sculptor in spite of being a deplorable human being. It is appropriate to say Breker was a good artist while considering his beliefs and actions inexcusable in the same way that Wagner was a good musician despite his inexcusable racism, Michelangelo was a good sculptor despite his inexcusable religiosity and Jacques-Louis David was a good painter despite inexcusably advocating fascism.
After the war, the allies destroyed most of Breker's works. On one hand that is a shame because many of them (but not all) were very good, but if that is what it took to break the Nazi army than I am happy it happened. This is a good example of an appropriate advocacy of the destruction of artworks. At least there are photographs like these which are available for art appreciators.
The images that I will be posting here will be what I consider to be his better works although it will not be an across-the-board selection.