The Matter of Persecuted Arts - A Heritage of Resilience

Published on 11 April 2023 at 15:29

Expressive Arts Focusing - Creative Compassion Blog April 11, 2023 ©Freda Blob

Art Journal page January 5th, 2023, Intention Setting. With photo of artwork of ©Eric Isenburger (1902-1944), Portrait of a Dancer, 1928 Citizen Foundation, Center for Persecuted Arts, Solingen/GER

To cultivate my understanding of visual aesthetics I visit art shows of galleries and museums on regular basis. A trip to five exhibitions in the culturally vibrant Ruhr Region of Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia, is my 2023 highlighting.

Among others I visit a special exhibition on Expressionists at Folkwang Museum Essen and the permanent exhibition at the Center for Persecuted Arts Solingen. Both exhibitions show master pieces that have been labelled as degenerative art during the 1930s and 1940s.

Although not all exhibits are speaking to me (some of them do not resonate at all) I am deeply touched. The art shows introduce me to unknown and stunning pieces of Expressionism.

'Keep up the positive and withdraw from despair having the last word' - this is what I get from the exhibitors as timeless message. Their art makes me feel something polyphony inside sounding more than just one voice. From all the voices I get, the voice of compassion for creative life is the strongest.

Persecuted arts are witnessing the power of human creativity in the midst of destructive and life threatening circumstances. They hold a promise of resilience.

This promise makes me research the work of other persecuted artists in Baden-Wuerttemberg/South Germany. I visit the Art Museum Reutlingen where the art work of Adolf Hölzel (1853-1934) is exhibited. In Adolf Hölzel I find a progressive and innovative artist and art teacher, a pioneer of modern arts and a pioneer of intermodal expression who strongly promoted women's artistic voices.

In 1933 art work of Hölzel and his students (and later colleagues, The Hölzel Circle) was to be exhibited at the National Art Exhibition, but the exhibition was cancelled due to National Sozialist seizure of power.

The art work of two members of the Hölzel Circle was officially declared as degenerative: The art of Ida Kerkovius, master student and long time assistant of Hölzel (banned in 1933) and the art of Lily Hildebrandt, also a master student who chronologically documented Hölzel's lectures (banned in 1935).

Another member of the Hölzel Circle, Maria Lemmé who had been studying with Adolf Hölzel and published his ideas in her book "Thoughts and Teachings", was deported to Terezín in 1942 (official date of death March 28, 1943). Almost all of the art of Maria Lemmé had been destroyed except pictures she privatley had given away.

Finding out about the members of the Hölzel Circle I visit the Stuttgart Hölzel House to find traces of their lives and their art, presented in a permanent exhibition. I feel intrigued by their work and cannot other but love their heritage.


I am chosing Adolf Hölzel as artist of reference for Museum based Creative Compassion practice as his body of work of the 1920-30s is abstract, whereas the work of the Hölzel Circle is semi-abstract or figurative.

Abstracts offer freedom of expression for the practitioner using Fine Arts pieces and receptive-active arts engagement as tools to build Relational Empathy from aesthetic feeling. Abstracts are interactive: It is the viewer, not the artist, who gives meaning to them.


©Freda Blob

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