Heroic realism

Last updated

Heroic realism is art used as propaganda. Examples include the Socialist realism style associated with Socialist states, and sometimes the similar art style associated with Fascism. Its characteristics are realism and the depiction of figures as ideal types or symbols, often with explicit rejection of modernism in art (as "bourgeois" or "degenerate").



Both socialist art and Nazi art were explicitly ordered to be heroic, [1] and were in consequence an ideal form of the real, rather than pure realism. [2]

Heroic realism designs were used to propagate the revolution in the Soviet Union during Lenin's time. Lenin doubted that the illiterate population would understand what abstract visual images were intended to communicate. He also thought that artists, such as constructivists and productivists, may have had a hidden agenda against the government. Movements such as Cubism were denounced as bourgeois and criticized for its failure to draw on the heritage of art and for rejecting the beautiful on the grounds that it was "old", [3] whereas proletarian culture had to draw on what was learned in the prior times. The artists countered such thinking, however, by saying that the advanced art represented the advanced political ideas.

In literature, Maxim Gorky urged that one obtained realism by extracting the basic idea from reality, but by adding the potential and desirable to it, one added romanticism with deep revolutionary potential. [4]

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman 1988 CPA 6017.jpg
Worker and Kolkhoz Woman

Stalin understood the powerful message which could be sent through images to a primarily illiterate population. Once he was in power, posters quickly became the new medium for educating illiterate peasants on daily life—from bathing, to farming, the posters provided visual instruction on almost everything. In 1931–2, the early emphasis on the "little man" and the anonymous laboring masses gave way to the "hero of labor", derived from the people but set apart by the scale of his deeds. [5] As a consequence, literature filled with "positive heroes" that were sometimes tedious. [6]

In 1934, a new doctrine called Socialist realism came about. This new movement rejected the "bourgeois influence on art" and replaced it with appreciation for figurative painting, photography and new typography layouts. Writers were explicitly enjoined to develop "heroization." [5] At the Paris World Fair, Vera Mukhina's Worker and Kolkhoz Woman exemplified the ideal New Soviet Man, depicting a man and woman in working clothes, with his hammer and her sickle crossed, in a monumental statue with both striding forward. [7]

When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, modern art was condemned as degenerate, and largely prohibited. The Nazis promoted a style of art based on classical models, intended to nurture nationalism. Heroic realism was to inculcate values of sacrifice, duty, and devotion. [8] The heroic man, who was bound to blood and soil, acted rather than thought and sacrificed himself. [9] This particularly favored the heroic death. [10]

Nazi theory explicitly rejected "materialism", and therefore, despite the realistic treatment of images, "realism" was a seldom used term. [11] A painter was to create an ideal picture, for eternity. [11] The images of men, and still more of women, were heavily stereotyped, [12] with physical perfection required for the nude paintings. [13] In painting, peasants were popular images, reflecting a simple life in harmony with nature. [14] Sculpture's monumental possibilities gave it a better expression of Nazi racial theories. [15] The most common image was of the nude male, expressing the ideal of the Aryan race. [16] Arno Breker's skill at this type made him Hitler's favorite sculptor. [17] Nude females were also common, though they tended to be less monumental. [18] In both cases, the physical form was to show no imperfections. [13] At the Paris Exposition of 1937, Josef Thorak's Comradeship stood outside the German pavilion, depicting two enormous nude males, clasping hands and standing defiantly side by side, in a pose of defense and racial camaraderie. [7] Sacrifice is associated with enduring adversity, each person is expected to give one's own life for the people since your people can demand of you what it has given you, thus is sacrifice tied to duty. [19] Justice comes from the fulfillment of duty, the highest duty is the greatest happiness. Doing one's duty is the sign of a free man, since he does what is required of him, and it is required of all of us, that demand of the people. A person who has done his duty too his utmost and has done it better than someone else higher or lower in the pecking order deserves greater admiration and esteem. He or she that done his or her duty in such a way has the greatest right to guide a country.

See also


  1. Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 355 ISBN   0-393-02030-4
  2. Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 356 ISBN   0-393-02030-4
  3. Oleg Sopontsinsky, Art in the Soviet Union: Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Arts, p. 6 Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad, 1978
  4. R. H. Stacy, Russian Literary Criticism p. 188 ISBN   0-8156-0108-5
  5. 1 2 Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 259 ISBN   0-393-02030-4
  6. R. H. Stacy, Russian Literary Criticism p. 224 ISBN   0-8156-0108-5
  7. 1 2 Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p. 260 ISBN   0-393-02030-4
  8. Herbert Marcuse, Negations, p. 29-30 Beacon Press, Boston 1968
  9. Herbert Marcuse, Negations, p. 2 Beacon Press, Boston 1968
  10. eye magazine: Designing heroes
  11. 1 2 Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 138 ISBN   0-8109-1912-5
  12. Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 150 ISBN   0-8109-1912-5
  13. 1 2 Susan Sontag,"Fascinating Fascism"
  14. Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 132 ISBN   0-8109-1912-5
  15. Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 177 ISBN   0-8109-1912-5
  16. Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 178 ISBN   0-8109-1912-5
  17. Caroline Fetscher, "Why Mention Arno Breker Today?", The Atlantic Times, August, 2006. Archived 2012-02-11 at the Wayback Machine
  18. Peter Adam, Art of the Third Reich p. 188 ISBN   0-8109-1912-5
  19. Stellrecht, Helmut (2019). Faith and Action. p. 20. Retrieved 31 May 2022.


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Socialist realism</span> Soviet style of realistic art depicting communist values

Socialist realism is a style of idealized realistic art that was developed in the Soviet Union and was the official style in that country between 1932 and 1988, as well as in other socialist countries after World War II. Socialist realism is characterized by the depiction of communist values, such as the emancipation of the proletariat. Despite its name, the figures in the style are very often highly idealized, especially in sculpture, where it often leans heavily on the conventions of classical sculpture. Although related, it should not be confused with social realism, a type of art that realistically depicts subjects of social concern, or other forms of "realism" in the visual arts. Socialist realism was made with an extremely literal and obvious meaning, usually showing an idealized USSR. Socialist realism was usually devoid of complex artistic meaning or interpretation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stakhanovite movement</span> Soviet work ethos equating labor with heroism

The Stakhanovite movement was a mass cultural movement of workers which originated in the Soviet Union, and encouraged socialist emulation and rationalization of workplace processes. The Stakhanovites (стаха́новцы) modeled themselves after Alexei Stakhanov and took pride in their ability to produce more than was required by working harder and more efficiently, thus contributing to the common good and strengthening the socialist state. The movement began in the coal industry but later spread to many other industries in the Soviet Union. Initially popular, it eventually encountered resistance as the increased productivity led to increased demands on workers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Degenerate art</span> Pejorative term used by the Nazi Party for modern art

Degenerate art was a term adopted in the 1920s by the Nazi Party in Germany to describe modern art. During the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler, German modernist art, including many works of internationally renowned artists, was removed from state-owned museums and banned in Nazi Germany on the grounds that such art was an "insult to German feeling", un-German, Freemasonic, Jewish, or Communist in nature. Those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions that included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Overy</span> British historian (born 1947)

Richard James Overy is a British historian who has published on the history of World War II and Nazi Germany. In 2007, as The Times editor of Complete History of the World, he chose the 50 key dates of world history.

Volksgemeinschaft is a German expression meaning "people's community", "folk community", "national community", or "racial community", depending on the translation of its component term Volk. This expression originally became popular during World War I as Germans rallied in support of the war, and many experienced "relief that at one fell swoop all social and political divisions could be solved in the great national equation". The idea of a Volksgemeinschaft was rooted in the notion of uniting people across class divides to achieve a national purpose, and the hope that national unity would "obliterate all conflicts - between employers and employees, town and countryside, producers and consumers, industry and craft".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New Soviet man</span> Archetype of the ideal Soviet citizen

The New Soviet man or New Soviet person, as postulated by the ideologists of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was an archetype of a person with specific qualities that were said to be emerging as dominant among all citizens of the Soviet Union, irrespective of the country's cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity, creating a single Soviet people and Soviet nation.

<i>Das Schwarze Korps</i> Official newspaper of the Schutzstaffel (SS) in Nazi Germany

Das Schwarze Korps was the official newspaper of the Schutzstaffel (SS). This newspaper was published on Wednesdays and distributed free of charge. All SS members were encouraged to read it. The chief editor was SS leader Gunter d'Alquen; the publisher was Max Amann of the Franz-Eher-Verlag publishing company. The paper was hostile to many groups, with frequent articles condemning the Catholic Church, Jews, Communism, Freemasonry, and others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arno Breker</span> German sculptor, a favorite of Adolf Hitler

Arno Breker was a German architect and sculptor who is best known for his public works in Nazi Germany, where they were endorsed by the authorities as the antithesis of degenerate art. He was made official state sculptor, and exempted from military service. One of his better known statues is Die Partei, representing the spirit of the Nazi Party that flanked one side of the carriage entrance to Albert Speer's new Reich Chancellery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Josef Thorak</span> Austrian-German sculptor

Josef Thorak was an Austrian-German sculptor. He became known for oversize monumental sculptures, particularly of male figures, and was one of the most prominent sculptors of the Third Reich.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Propaganda in Nazi Germany</span>

The propaganda used by the German Nazi Party in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler's dictatorship of Germany from 1933 to 1945 was a crucial instrument for acquiring and maintaining power, and for the implementation of Nazi policies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Art in Nazi Germany</span> Promoted and censored forms of art in Germany from 1933 to 1945

The Nazi regime in Germany actively promoted and censored forms of art between 1933 and 1945. Upon becoming dictator in 1933, Adolf Hitler gave his personal artistic preference the force of law to a degree rarely known before. In the case of Germany, the model was to be classical Greek and Roman art, seen by Hitler as an art whose exterior form embodied an inner racial ideal. It was, furthermore, to be comprehensible to the average man. This art was to be both heroic and romantic. The Nazis viewed the culture of the Weimar period with disgust. Their response stemmed partly from conservative aesthetics and partly from their determination to use culture as propaganda.

Barrier troops, blocking units, or anti-retreat forces are military units that are located in the rear or on the front line to maintain military discipline, prevent the flight of servicemen from the battlefield, capture spies, saboteurs and deserters, and return troops who flee from the battlefield or lag behind their units.

<i>Worker and Kolkhoz Woman</i> Russian sculpture by Vera Mukhina

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman is a sculpture of two figures with a sickle and a hammer raised over their heads. The concept and compositional design belong to the architect Boris Iofan. It is 24.5 metres (78 feet) high, made from stainless steel by Vera Mukhina for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris, and subsequently moved to Moscow. The sculpture is an example of socialist realism in an Art Deco aesthetic. The worker holds aloft a hammer and the kolkhoz woman a sickle to form the hammer and sickle symbol.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Religious views of Adolf Hitler</span>

The religious beliefs of Adolf Hitler, dictator of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, have been a matter of debate. His opinions regarding religious matters changed considerably over time. During the beginning of his political life, Hitler publicly expressed favorable opinions towards Christianity. Some historians describe his later posture as being "anti-Christian". He also criticized atheism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Propaganda in the Soviet Union</span>

Propaganda in the Soviet Union was the practice of state-directed communication to promote class conflict, internationalism, the goals of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the party itself.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nazi Party Office of Racial Policy</span> Racial policy agency of Nazi Germany

The Office of Racial Policy was a department of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) that was founded for "unifying and supervising all indoctrination and propaganda work in the field of population and racial politics". It began in 1933 as the Nazi Party Office for Enlightenment on Population Policy and Racial Welfare. By 1935, it had been renamed to the Nazi Party Office of Racial Policy.

Heimkehr is a 1941 Nazi German anti-Polish propaganda film directed by Gustav Ucicky.

<i>Hans Westmar</i> 1933 film

Hans Westmar was the last of an unofficial trilogy of films produced by the Nazis shortly after coming to power in January 1933, celebrating their Kampfzeit – the history of their period in opposition, struggling to gain power. The film is a partially fictionalized biography of the Nazi martyr Horst Wessel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nazi–Soviet economic relations (1934–1941)</span> Economic relations between Nazi Germany and Soviet Union

After the Nazis rose to power in Germany in 1933, relations between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union began to deteriorate rapidly. Trade between the two sides decreased. Following several years of high tension and rivalry, the two governments began to improve relations in 1939. In August of that year, the countries expanded their economic relationship by entering into a Trade and Credit agreement whereby the Soviet Union sent critical raw materials to Germany in exchange for weapons, military technology and civilian machinery. That deal accompanied the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which contained secret protocols dividing central Europe between them, after which both Nazi forces and Soviet forces invaded territories listed within their "spheres of influence".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Themes in Nazi propaganda</span> Propaganda of the German Nazi regime

The propaganda of the Nazi regime that governed Germany from 1933 to 1945 promoted Nazi ideology by demonizing the enemies of the Nazi Party, notably Jews and communists, but also capitalists and intellectuals. It promoted the values asserted by the Nazis, including heroic death, Führerprinzip, Volksgemeinschaft, Blut und Boden and pride in the Germanic Herrenvolk. Propaganda was also used to maintain the cult of personality around Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and to promote campaigns for eugenics and the annexation of German-speaking areas. After the outbreak of World War II, Nazi propaganda vilified Germany's enemies, notably the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States, and in 1943 exhorted the population to total war.