Redefining Rembrandt in the Third Reich
Nazi collectors of plundered art like Herman Göring and Joseph Goebbels avidly sought works by the famous Dutch master, Rembrandt. An avowed admirer of the painter, Hitler endeavored to amass a significant collection of Rembrandts for the museum he planned in Linz. There was a major problem with the artist, however, that posed difficulties for the Nazis. In order to conform to Nazi ideologies of race, Rembrandt was either purged of his supposed "Jewishness," or denigrated for it. This talk investigates the ambivalence surrounding the artist during the Third Reich by consulting such Nazi art critics as Maria Grunewald, Hans Frank, Walter Hansen, and Alfred Rosenberg (the latter, editor of the newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter), who variously denounced or "aryanized" Rembrandt. Also pertinent to this discussion are interpretations of Rembrandt's art by such German critics as Julius Langbehn, Carl Neumann, Wilhelm Valentiner (director of the Detroit Institute of Arts), and the famous author, Anna Seghers.
Shelley Perlove, Visiting Professor Emeritus at the Frankel Center, taught art history for nearly 30 years at University of Michigan-Dearborn, where she has won awards for excellence in research and teaching. Dr. Perlove is author of two, award-winning monographs: Bernini and the Idealization of Death, and more recently with Larry Silver, Rembrandt’s Faith. Church and Temple in the Dutch Golden Age, both published by Penn State University Press. She is co-editor of two books that will appear soon, one on European drawings of the 17th century, to be published by Notre Dame University Press, and another on visual typology in 16th c. European art to appear with Brepols. Professor Perlove has authored five exhibition catalogues, and was contributor as author and consultant to “Rembrandt’s Heads of Jesus,” which opened at the Louvre and traveled to the DIA. She has written more than 30 essays on early modern art, often in relation to the Jews and themes from the Hebrew Bible. Her talk today stems from an article, "Perceptions of Otherness: Critical Responses to the Jews of Rembrandt's Art (1836-1945)," published in the journal, Dutch Crossing.