Understanding the Holocaust

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored murder and persecution of 6 six million Jews that was conducted by the Nazi regime. Holocaust is a Greek word meaning “sacrificing by fire”. The Nazis, who took power in Germany in 1933, believed that Germans were a “superior” race, and the Jews were deemed an “inferior” race.

During the Holocaust era, the German authorities also attacked and killed other groups who were perceived as “racially inferior”: Roma, the Slavic people, and the disabled. Other groups were executed on political grounds, behavioral, and ideological grounds, among them homosexuals, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Communists.

In 1993, the population of Jews in Europe was over nine million. Most of these Jews lived in countries which Nazi Germany would influence or occupy during World War II. By 1945, the Nazis and its allies murdered nearly two out of every three Jews in Europe as part of the “Final Solution” – a Nazi policy to kill the Jews of Europe.

Although the Jews were the main victims of Nazi racism, others who suffered include: 200,000 Romas and at least 200,000 disabled people were killed in the so-called Euthanasia program.

What is Islamic Art?

Islamic art includes the virtual arts that were produced from the 7th century by people who lived in regions that were ruled or inhibited by culturally Islamic populations.  Therefore, it is not easy to define the Islamic art because it encompasses various people and many lands over 1,400 years. It is not art particularly of a place, or of religion, or of time, or of a single medium such as painting.

Though Islamic art is not restricted to religious art, it includes the art that is varied and rich in culture of Islamic societies. It often comprises secular elements that are frowned upon and sometimes forbidden by some theologians of Islam. Apart from calligraphic inscriptions, particularly religious art is less noticeable in Islamic art compared to Western medieval art, excepting Islamic architecture because mosques and the development of adjacent buildings are the most common remains.

Islamic art can be traced from various sources: Early Christian art, Roman, and Byzantine styles that were taken in early Islamic art, the Sassanian art influence, Central Asian styles that were brought with many nomadic incursions and Chinese influence that had effect on Islamic pottery, textiles and painting. Although the “Islamic art” concept has been subjected to criticism by some modern art historians who call it a “figment of imagination”,  the similarities between art at different places and time in the Islamic world, specifically in the Islamic Golden Age, are enough to make the term in wide use.

There are reiterating elements in Islamic art, like the use of vegetal designs or geometrical floral in a repetition referred to as the arabesque.  The term arabesque in Islamic art is commonly used to show the transcendent, infinite, and indivisible God’s nature. Mistakes in repetition are sometimes introduced intentionally to show humility by the artist because they believe only God is perfect, though this theory  is disputed.

What is Political Kitsch?

Political Kitsch is a form of propaganda, mostly designed to shape public policy direction.  Drawing from the word kitsch as used in art world to refer to how art emotionalizes everyday life, political kitsch is intended to comfort and reassure the consumer or observer.

Kitsch tends to imitate the effects that are produced by sensory experiences. It presents charged imagery, music or language that triggers an involuntary emotional reaction. The word “kitsch” is associated with object or art that are popular but lack artistic value. Kitsch is also closely related to mass produced objects. Thus, it is associated with modernity, industrial revolution and the growth of the bourgeoisie.

In art, Kitsch is understood by some people as the art that engages emotions and purposely ignores the intellect. It is a form of cultural anesthesia that exploits, builds and manipulates conflicted history. In the political field, kitsch uses symbolism to support national mythologies and make use of constructed political ‘realities’.  Normally, it colonizes the consciousness of the receiver. It appeases rather than provokes.

In England, John Major, former Prime Minister, tried to use political kitsch when he stated that Britain was a state of long shadows on cricket ground, invincible green suburbs, warm beer, pool fillers and dog lovers. He was mocked since a large population found those Britishness notions alien.

Demagogic and populist politicians from Chávez to Chirac, Peron to Berlusconi, all use political kitsch while trying to win voters’ hearts, appealing to notions of culture that are out-of-date. Right-wing regimes use the popular distrust of ‘welfare mothers’ abusing the system to derive advantages while the left-wing governments tend to use popular mistrust of financiers, bankers and Jews.

Kitsch is the artistic ideal of many political parties, politician and movements. For instance, when you see a politician kissing a baby that is an ultimate kitschy political move. During the communist movement, the communists tricked the participants into praising communism by pretending they were celebrating life.

Les Nabis – The High Priests in Art

Started as a movement by Paul Sérusier in the late nineteenth century, the main motive of this form of art was to indulge in paintings that also portray the soul of the artist. The movement was well aligned towards the post-impressionists, who had a sense of colors while also using both urban and rural lifestyle to portray their work. Nabi historian Charles Chassé said, “A picture had to mean only when it possessed ‘style,” helping artists mold shapes that may also relate their art to their own personalities.

The “brotherhood” as the Nabi’s artists thought of themselves, included many major artists who brought symbolism forward. Apart from Paul Sérusier, the originator of the movement, other notable artists included Paul Ranson, the social “glue” of the group, the Swiss artist Félix Vallotton, Maurice Denis, Édouard Vuillard, Vuillard’s brother-in-law Ker-Xavier Roussel, Pierre Bonnard and the two sculptors Aristide Maillol and Georges Lacombe. Denis used to write articles about the Nabi or the Prophet’s movement. The rejection of naturalism and the inclusion of symbolism brought a new level of spirituality to their work. Denis is also highly acclaimed for having made one of the pivotal statements that got seized by modernist painters of the twentieth century. He said, “A picture – before being a war-horse, a female nude, or some anecdote – is essentially a flat surface covered with colors in a particular order.” Although Sérusier was highly motivated by the instructions given by Gauguin, there was a high contrast in the work found between the two. Denis takes into account the teaching provided by Gauguin but still goes beyond the use of pure colors to colors that are harmless to nature.

Amongst the most prominent of works found in the Nabi’s movement, the artwork of Sérusier holds significance. His work he designed in the beginning of 1888, The Talisman, the River Aven at the Bois d’Amour started the movement in the first place. It was painted on the lid of a cigar box. It was also the first work under the direct guidance of Paul Gauguin’s style of expressive color. Gauguin encouraged Sérusier to use colors straight from the tube rather than mixing them and match them to what he saw in nature. Gauguin asked Sérusier: “How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermilion.”


The Les Nabis(pronounced nah-BEE) were a group made up of Post-Impressionist avant-garde artists in France who were active mainly in the 1890’s. The group was initially organized by Paul Sérusier(1863~1927) in the late 1880’s, who gathered his friends which included some main figures such as Emile Bernard(1869~1941), Edouard Vuillard(1868~1940), Pierre Bonnard(1867~1947), and Maurice Denis(1870~1943), and most of them attended at the private art school of Rodolph Julian(Académie Julian).

The Nabi group were deeply inspired by, and rooted from the works of Paul Gauguin. In 1888 Sérusier, who was one of pupils of Gauguin’s, took over Gauguin’s theory of the Synthesism movement shared it with his group of young artist of Académie Julian and got into action. This group had a monthly meeting at a café at Passage Brady. Poet Henri Cazalis named the group ‘Nabi’ as in the Hebrew word for the prophet. The Nabi regarded of themselves as the pioneers of art and had great pride at that fact.

Around 1892, the Nabi began to have mystical, symbolic tendencies by being influenced by the literature movements of Symbolism, and showed distinctive characteristics like anti-realistic, decorative propensities in the way of expressions. They adapted techniques from the Ukiyo-e engravings like using smooth color planes for example, and made bold frame compositions. Félix Vallotton(1865~1925)’s engravings and posters or Vuillard’s decorative paintings clearly show these characteristics.

The Nabi mainly brushed around in the 1890’s, so after the 20th century, everybody took their own lines.



Les Nabis

Les Nabis represents a group of artists who set down the momentum for fine arts and graphic arts in France in the 1890s. It was initially a league of friends who had their interest in contemporary art and literature.

It was in the year 1890 that they started participating in the public exhibitions but then the output remained either a private property or that of the artists. It was in 1896 that this group of artists began to dismantle and the lead members of the group got the standing to artistically survive on their own. It was only Paul Serusier who had problems to overcome. He was the one who later galvanized Les Nabis and gave its name.

The Nabi group represented the kind of art which grew out of the work of Paul Gauguin. They advocated the theory that a picture had a meaning only when it possessed ‘style.’ This implies that the art represented the personality of its artist. The artist explores and imposes the change on the objects as per his own personality. The Nabis Artists were known to be truly dedicated to the sources of personal and spiritual art.

Les Nabis Movement had a great Influence on art which laid the foundation for the development of abstract and non-representational art in the beginning of the 20th Century. The style of this art was representational yet design oriented. It used all kinds of material medium including oils, distempers, producing posters, prints, book illustration, textiles and furniture.

After the end of the century, as the modern art grew, Les Nabis were seen as conservatives and that is the reason in years later, these painters also largely forsaked their earlier influence in Decorative and Applied Arts.

Some of the Nabis artists were Maurice Denis,Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Paul Ranson and Félix Vallotton. One of the most prominent arts of this time is “The Talisman” (1888).