“The Power Of Weakness”

Morgan Meis considers Hitler’s aesthetic sensibilities in a review of the Neue Galerie’s “Degenerate Art” exhibition. He singles out a work by Emil Nolde, whose work was condemned by the Nazis even though the artist joined the party in the early 1920s:

Nolde’s art simply did not look right to Hitler and Goebbels and Ziegler. Looking at dish_nolde his famous woodcut, “The Prophet” (1912), one can see why. It is a stark woodcut, with thick and harsh lines. The prophet’s face droops downward, sallow and a step away from complete defeat. Nolde’s prophet does not bear a message of triumph. He has a sadder tale to tell. This isn’t to say that the prophet lacks strength. He has learned something, Nolde’s prophet. He knows that life is made richer by the trials of pain and suffering. Nolde’s prophet wants everyone to know that our greatest strength can be found, paradoxically, in our weakness. This was a spiritual insight utterly intolerable to Hitler. Hitler had emerged from his own pain and suffering with a different idea: Strength comes from strength, power from power.

Nolde was compelled to make art that expressed the power of weakness even while he professed Nazi doctrine that strength comes from strength. This proves how thin and sometimes imperceptible is the line between these two thoughts. The latter is so much more compelling. It is an idea we tell ourselves every day; that we must ever be strong.

(Image of The Prophet by Emil Nolde, 1912, via Wikipedia)