The exhibition "Escape into Art?" is the first critical and detailed examination of the artistic practice, scope and everyday life of the former Brücke artists during the Nazi period.
The history of the initial members of Brücke – Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Pechstein and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – during the years 1933 to 1945 has generally been reduced to the ‘defamation’ of their art by the Nazis. This one-dimensional view neither does justice to the complex lived situations of the artists nor explores the contradictions within Nazi cultural policy. In the early days of the Nazi regime, most of the Brücke artists hoped that their art would be acknowledged – a hope that the former indeed partly nourished. Despite the caesuras resulting from the Nazi art policy, the Brücke members (with the exception of Kirchner, who committed suicide in 1938) continued to produce art until the end of the war. To further highlight both the breaks and the continuities in the practices of the Brücke members, this investigative exhibition does not just end in May 1945, but continues with a final chapter in Kunsthaus Dahlem. How did people view the years of Nazi tyranny as of summer 1945? What role did the former Brücke artists play in rebuilding a now divided Germany?
The exhibition Escape into Art? centres around works by Schmidt-Rottluff, Heckel, Pechstein and Kirchner in the Brücke-Museum collection. The presentation seeks to take a multifaceted view and approaches the complexity of the Brücke history – between recognition and ‘defamation’ – by means of artworks and extensive documentation.