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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Sunrise ~ Sun, Aug 29

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | August 31st, 2010 | Comments 1 Comment »

“Art brings the subconscious into the sunlight,” Henri Laurens, a Surrealist sculptor active during the beginning half of the last century wrote. I spent yesterday at the Alte Nationalgalerie, ( the fabulous Neue Nationalgalerie ( and today at the Brücke-Museum, ( learning about the Dresden “bridge” artists who painted in the early 1900s. Influenced at first by Van Gogh and later by the French Fauvists, their work is startlingly colorful, more defined than the Impressionists who preceded them and less abstract than the Surrealists who follow them. Several of Die Brücke artists traveled to the South Pacific and painted “primitives” – native masks, native people in natural, unclothed settings – a real departure from the highly coiffed Impressionists and portraiturists of the time – and their work later caught Hitler’s eye.

Most of these artists’ work was confiscated by the Nazis and displayed in a 1937 exhibit in Munich called “Degenerative Art.” In all, the Nazis confiscated more than 20,000 works by more than 200 artists. The Nazis’ attempt to discredit the artists backfired, however, as collectors and curators flocked to the exhibit. Fortunately, some Nazis stole paintings to sell later on the Black Market and curators were able to squire away pieces. Still, the Nazis destroyed 5,000 works in a bonfire after the exhibit. Kadinsky, Max Ernst….

…And my new discovery Ernst Ludwig Kirschner, one of the founders of Die Brücke. He volunteered in the German Army in WWI, but his work was banned by the Nazis. He exiled to Switzerland and committed suicide, like Vincent Van Gogh, when he was 37.

At the Neue Nationalgalerie, about a dozen black-and-white reproductions of lost work hang in mourning. The Museum has been working for 70 years to locate art it lost during WWII and to replenish its collection. The building is noteworthy: It was originally built to be Berlin’s Bacardi Rum outlet, but Castro wanted a less modern, more “Spanish-style” building. The artwork is overwhelming, room after room of vibrant colors and lines. By the end, my subconscious needed sunscreen!

My first experience with “art” – at 2½ — was when my mother separated from my dad for a bit. Broke, pregnant with my brother, and bound by the Buffalo winter, we spent our days in the Central Library or in the Albright-Knox Modern Art Museum ( – both free, both heated. I have vivid memories of staring at the huge Jackson Pollack. Nearly 50 years later, I can still beeline to it.

Decades later, on my way home from my first trip to Iraq, I laid over in Noordwijk at my friend Philip’s, where I was last week. After 10 electrifying days of sugary tea and women on the verge of war, I was so physically, emotionally and psychically exhausted, I barely got out of bed. I did rally, though, for a drive to Amsterdam to the Van Gogh Museum ( It was February, and I had only summer clothes with me as I was traveling Los Angeles/Baghdad – desert to desert. Philip loaned me one of his down jackets. In it, I felt like an impenetrable marshmallow.

At the Van Gogh Museum, I turned the corner into the “Arles” Room displaying several of the artist’s Japanese blossoms and a sunflower painting. After a sleepless week of fear, shame, pity, guilt and helplessness in pre-war Iraq, I finally broke down and sobbed surrounded by Van Gogh. My subconscious hit the light. Hopefully, I can effect the same with my book.

Tip: The Brücke Museum is in a posh residential neighborhood a good ½ hr walk from the Podbielskiallee Underground. There is no café at the museum and no restaurants in the neighborhood, except for a mediocre Turkish Biergarten at the Underground station. Eat before you go.

Tip: Museum Island seemed ridiculously difficult to get to. The Underground connections in the heart of town are confusing and the few train attendants I found in the “info” booths were not eager to practice their English. Even German tourists were confused. Ask directions at your hotel.
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One Response to “Sunrise ~ Sun, Aug 29”

  1. Nydia Bustos Says:

    Hello Ms Kelly:
    I just finished reading your notes of August!
    I hope you are doing well.
    Thank you for all the information given about the Museums in Europe.
    I can see and feel that it was a great experience for you! Van Gogh is one of my favorites painters, and I read a book with the letters he wrote to his brother Theodorus. You are right… many artist have had a very difficult life before their are recognized as a great artist. I hope you do not have to go that way with your book…
    Although you have to go far away from home, and leave your loved cat alone, and have many small and big sacrifices, I wish that you always have some body to talk to, warm trusty company, a place where you can stay…
    Keep writing! Keep working on your book, it will be a great book!

    Yours sincerely,

    Nydia Bustos

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