Nazi vs Niebelung: Satirising National Socialism at Harvard's Germanic Museum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Between 1935 and 1937, the Jewish-American artist Lewis W. Rubenstein (1908-2003) completed a mural cycle at Harvard University's Germanic Museum that visually conflated scenes from Richard Wagner's nineteenth-century Der Ring des Niebelungen operas with satirical images of Nazis, including one of Adolf Hitler in the guise of a bare-chested dwarf. Created as a deliberate criticism of the Third Reich and its visual propaganda, Rubenstein's mural was largely recognised by contemporary audiences as a political, rather than historical, work of art. The artist and the museum's curator, Charles L. Kuhn, nevertheless remained ambivalent toward the iconography of the cycle, maintaining that it was not intended as anti-Hitler propaganda, so as not to incite censorship from the larger administration. The current study argues that Rubenstein's mural not only functions as the artist's personal criticism of Hitler, but as a public condemnation of National Socialism on Harvard's campus when high-ranking university officials, including president James Conant Bryant, were contrastingly seeking appeasement with German officials prior to the Second World War.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-411
Number of pages23
JournalOxford Art Journal
Volume35
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes

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Murals
National Socialism
Artist
Adolf Hitler
Criticism
Propaganda
Opera
Ring
Richard Wagner
University Rankings
Appeasement
Censorship
Iconography
Works of Art
Third Reich
Campus
Condemnation
Museum Curators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History

Cite this

Nazi vs Niebelung : Satirising National Socialism at Harvard's Germanic Museum. / Timpano, Nathan.

In: Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3, 12.2012, p. 389-411.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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