May 15 - July 31, 1942: the "Arno Breker" exhibition in Paris

May 15 - July 31, 1942: the

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Title: Poster: Arno Breker.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1942

Date shown: 1942

Dimensions: Height 73 - Width 40.5

Technique and other indications: Offset

Storage location: Orangerie Museum

Contact copyright: © All rights reserved, © ADAGP, © RMN - Grand Palais (Orangerie museum) / Stéphane Maréchalle

Picture reference: 09-517232

© All rights reserved, ADAGP, RMN - Grand Palais (Orangerie museum) / Stéphane Maréchalle

Publication date: September 2013

Historical context

Cultural life under the Occupation

Far from ceasing, cultural life remained relatively lively under the Occupation. Throughout the country and especially in Paris, books are published, live shows are shown, concerts are given and exhibitions are offered to the public, quite numerous and quite curious given the circumstances.

Subject to the double control of Vichy and the Nazis, these different activities can obviously serve the propaganda of the powers in place. If, despite the censorship, certain artists, theater directors, museum curators, publishers, exhibition curators, etc., sometimes manage to find a certain and surprising freedom, the fact remains that most of the creation and distribution is fully in line with the logic and daily life of the Occupation.

Thus the important exhibition Arno breker, which is held at the orangery of the Tuileries from May 15 to July 31, 1942 and whose poster we are studying here, testifies both to the reality of this cultural life and to its "political" orientation. Very widely distributed on the walls of the capital, this image (as well as the exhibition and the artist to which it refers) shapes the consciences and representations of the population to its extent.

Image Analysis

Arno Breker's sculpture

Intentionally sober and direct, the composition of the poster has something solemn, even imposing. Against a solid black background the white of a reproduction of one of the German sculptor's most famous works stands out, occupying more than half of the document. Below, and always in white, the name of the artist in large letters, then the place and dates of the exhibition in smaller.

Typical of Breker's sculpture, this plaster work is inspired by the art of ancient Greece (classical period) and represents with great realism the face of a young woman with regular, clean, beautiful and serene features. The work on the hair, the details (eyes, mouth) and the expression, quite contemporary, however bring a characteristic touch of modernity to the whole, referring to the statuary art (in particular Italian and German) of the 1930s that Breker helped to emerge.


A "Nazi" art?

After his beginnings in abstract sculpture, Arno Breker (1900-1991) turned towards more classical representations which quickly earned him great recognition throughout Europe. Having stayed in Paris and then in Rome, he returned to Germany in 1937, where he was appointed professor at the Graduate School of Fine Arts in Berlin. Appreciated by the Nazi power, friend of Speer and considered a genius by Hitler, he fulfills several commissions and carries out numerous works to the glory of the ideology of the regime.

It is therefore an “official” artist, if not committed, who is exhibited at the Orangerie, invited by the City of Paris and the French government in 1942. Because of this context, and independently of the image itself, his exhibition carries a strong ideological and symbolic message. In the capital of the arts, it is supposed to demonstrate to Parisians the reality, the grandeur and the majesty of "Nazi" art, of which Breker is one of the most illustrious contributors. Politically, such an event must also convince that the occupiers are neither barbarians nor oppressors, they who highlight and make accessible to all the high culture (that of the future) promoted by the IIIe Reich.

The poster announcing the exhibition Arno breker can also refer to Nazi ideology. Whether it is her composition or the sculpture in it (and, by extension, Breker's work), she does indeed display an aesthetic of purity (or purity). Sober and almost rigid, it blends without frills the reference to classical excellence and a more futuristic aspect that clearly evokes the values ​​of the civilization (both men and artistic productions) that it exhibits and imposes here.

  • War of 39-45
  • Hitler (Adolf)
  • Museum
  • Nazism
  • Occupation
  • Paris
  • sculpture
  • Tuileries
  • Speer (Albert)


Jean-Pierre AZÉMA, New history of contemporary France, volume XIV “From Munich to the Liberation, 1938-1944”, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1979, new. ed. 2002.

Jean-Pierre AZÉMA and Olivier WIEVIORKA, Vichy, 1940-1944, Paris, Perrin, 1997.

Stéphanie CORCY, Cultural life under the Occupation, Paris, Perrin, 2005.

· Ronald HIRLÉ and Joe F. BODENSTEIN, Arno breker, Strasbourg, Éditions Hirlé, 2010.

Pierre LABORIE, The French under Vichy and the Occupation, Toulouse, Milan, coll. “The Essentials”, 2003.

Gérard LEROY, Breker, Puiseaux, Pardès, coll. " Who am I ? », 2002.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "May 15 - July 31, 1942: the" Arno Breker "exhibition in Paris"

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