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Art and Images in Psychiatry
September 2013

DepartureMax Beckmann

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(9):893-894. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2005

Departure, yes departure, from the illusions of life toward the essential realities that lie beyond…. It is to be said that Departure bears no tendentious meaning—it could well be applied to all times.

Max Beckmann1(p53)

On July 19, 1937, the day after hearing Adolf Hitler’s radio broadcast announcing the opening of the House of German Art, renowned expressionist Max Beckmann (1884-1950) and his wife Quappi fled Berlin for the Netherlands. They were never to return to Germany. The House of German Art, the first building erected by the new regime, would show only the finest art, that approved by the Third Reich, and none by modern artists now deemed degenerate. Hitler raved against decadent modern artists like Beckmann in his radio address. He demeaned modern artists, claiming that they see “our people as decadent cretins” and distort the world by painting meadows blue, skies green, and clouds sulfur yellow. Hitler ordered the Minister of the Interior to “prevent at least the further hereditary propagation of these gruesome optical disturbances.”2(p26) Thus, modern artists, along with people with mental illnesses, were targeted for sterilization in the Nazi eugenics campaign.3

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