“So much has been written on the way the Nazis used art in Germany, but very little on art in Nazi Vienna, and almost nothing at all in English,” notes Dr. Laura Morowitz, whose forthcoming book, Art, Exhibition and Erasure (Routledge, 2023) sets out to change that. Morowitz has been a Professor of Art History at Wagner College since 1996 and is the Senior Research and Programming Director of the WCHC. “Given that a higher percentage of Austrians joined the Nazi party, that Hitler was Austrian, and that Vienna was the most Jewish city in all of Western Europe at the time this is especially surprising”. The product of years of research in archives and libraries, Morowitz’ book focuses not on transparent “political” art–portraits of rulers or battle scenes, etc.--but on fine art exhibits of landscape, portraits and even exhibitions by well known Modernists such as Gustav Klimt, that were held at the Vienna Künstlerhaus, one of the only Nazi-approved spaces for the depiction of contemporary art. “How did such works help to subtly support Nazi ideologies and “normalize” the society in which people lived?” Morowitz asked. Such questions brought her to incorporate into her book a lot of recent research on Memory Studies, which looks at the way collective memory is shaped and transformed. With only one comprehensive book in English on the Anschluss (the incorporation of Austria into the Third Reich beginning in 1938) she knew that she would need to fill in the larger picture of Viennese culture under the Nazis; numerous short chapters in the book provide crucial background material on the evolving political and cultural situation from 1938 to 1945. This includes discussion of the Reichsstatthalter and Governor of Vienna, Baldur von Schirach, who personally sponsored many of the art exhibits Morowitz studies and who considered the murder and deportation of Vienna’s nearly 200,000 Jews “a great contribution to European culture”. With close to 70 images in her book, Morowitz hopes the volume will help readers deepen their understanding of how visual art functioned under the Nazi regime, offering a fuller picture and raising questions that still resonate today.
The book can be previewed and ordered here: