'Entartete Kunst' (or 'Degenerate Art') was a derogatory term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany. An exhibition entitled 'Entartete Kunst' opened in Munich in 1937 displaying works deemed to be 'an insult to German feeling'. It went on to tour the country. The 'degenerate' verdict applied to virtually all German modernist art, but works by internationally renowned artists such as Picasso were also seized.
The V&A holds the only known copy of a complete inventory of Entartete Kunst confiscated by the Nazi regime from public institutions in Germany, mostly during 1937 and 1938. The list of more than 16,000 artworks was produced by the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) in 1942 or thereabouts. It seems that the inventory was compiled as a final record, after the sales and disposals of the confiscated art had been completed in the summer of 1941. The inventory's two typescript volumes provide crucial information about the provenance, exhibition history and fate of each artwork.
How to read the Entartete Kunst inventory
The inventory consists of 482 pages (including blank pages and a missing page), split into two volumes. The entries are organised alphabetically by city, institution and artist's name. Volume 1 covers the cities Aachen to Görlitz, while Volume 2 covers Göttingen to Zwickau.
1. City | 2. Institution | 3. Name of artist | 4. Inventory number | 5. Title of confiscated artwork | 6. Technique: 'A' for Aquarell (watercolour), 'G' for Graphik (print), 'ÖL' for Ölmalerei (oil painting) | 7. Name of authorised dealer where applicable | 8. Fate of artwork: 'E' for Entartet (featured in the 'Degenerate Art' exhibition), 'V' for Verkauf (sale), 'T' for Tausch (exchange), 'X' for Vernichtung (destroyed, as could not be sold or exchanged), 'K' on commission with dealer | 9. Sale price in foreign currency | 10. Sale price in German currency (Reichsmarks)
Explore the inventory
You can also view and download a PDF copy of the Entartete Kunst inventory
Provenance of the inventory
The inventory was donated to the V&A's National Art Library by Elfriede Fischer, the widow of Heinrich Robert (Harry) Fischer, in 1996. It forms part of the National Art Library Fischer Collection.
Harry Fischer apparently collected most or all of the material in the Fischer Collection during the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a view to donating it to the V&A. Although it is not yet known how, when and for what purpose Fischer obtained the list, he seems to have possessed it from at least the late 1960s. The inventory's two volumes appear to have been bound (or re-bound) at around this time, and they are stored in a matching dark grey box with the title 'Entartete Kunst' stamped in gold on the spine.
The V&A's copy of the inventory lacks a formal title page. The first page of Volume 1 includes the title Entartete Kunst, hand-written in upper-case and with the word 'Entartete' (or 'Degenerate') in quotation marks. The title was added after the document was first created, and may have been written by Harry Fischer himself.
Other known copies
Two other copies of an earlier version of Volume 1 (A – G) are known to have survived the War, and these are now held by the German Federal Archives in Berlin (R55/20744, R55/20745). Both copies have the same hand-written title, in black ink: Beschlagnahmte Werke/nach Museen geordnet (Confiscated works, arranged by museum). Both copies also contain the same typescript list of artworks, arranged by city, institution and artist. One of the Berlin documents (R55/20745) was clearly the working copy, as it also includes additional manuscript information about the fate of individual works. Many of the entries have been annotated with symbols to show that they were destroyed, sold or exchanged. Although the information varies in detail, it seems likely that the V&A's inventory was produced from this earlier list or something similar. There was presumably also a master list, in inventory number order.
The Freie Universität Berlin provides one of the main online sources of further information about 'Entartete Kunst' and the fate of individual artworks. In particular, the University maintains an extensive database that includes entries for many of the artworks included in the inventory held by the V&A. It is possible to search for works by artist name, Entartete Kunst inventory number, dealer etc.