Behind Hitler’s portraits

French art and politics scholar Eric Michaud, author of The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany, will be at York University today to discuss “Are Hitler’s Portraits Charismatic?” 

The most incisive studies of the Nazi regime, Michaud believes, are those which neither focus exclusively on the figure of the führer nor on those who obeyed his orders but upon the relationship that was established between the two. The lecture will explore how Hitler’s portraits were precisely designed to construct this relationship, that is to construct the charisma of the führer.

The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany is a translation of Michaud’s Un art de l’éternité and will be published by Stanford University Press next spring. According to the publisher, the book presents a new interpretation of national socialism, arguing that art in the Third Reich was not simply an instrument of the regime, but actually became a source of the racist politics upon which its ideology was founded. Through the myth of the Aryan race, a race pronounced superior because it alone creates culture, Nazism asserted art as the sole raison d’être of a regime defined by Hitler as the “dictatorship of genius.”

Michaud, a professor at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris), works on the relations between politics and art. He is the author of Théâtre au Bauhaus, 1919-1929 (1978), Hypnoses (with Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and Jean-Luc Nancy, 1984), La fin du salut par l’image (1992), Un art de l’éternité: L’image et le temps du national-socialisme (1996), Fabriques de l’homme nouveau: de Léger à Mondrian (1997). 

Michaud’s talk, sponsored by the Graduate Program in Art History, the Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies, and the Centre for Jewish Studies, will take place in the Harry Crowe Room, 109 Atkinson Building at 2:30pm.