Course Description

Course Name

Totalitarian Art in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and the USSR

Session: VDNS3121

Hours & Credits

18 Credit Points

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


A comparative interdisciplinary examination of the entanglement of art and politics in the visual culture (paintings, photography, political posters, propaganda exhibitions, film) and architecture of the European single-party states.

This course is a comparative study of the art, visual culture, and architecture of the 20th-century European single-party states. We begin by considering the roots of totalitarian art in the avant-garde and modernist movements of the early 20th century, when artists sought to transform society through the creation of entirely new artistic forms of mass appeal. After examining the distinct ideologies and their manifestation in the art and visual propaganda of the various regimes, we consider a number of comparative topics, including the representation of each regime's ideal "new person", propaganda exhibitions, the leadership cults of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, and the urban planning and architecture for the capitols of Berlin, Rome and Moscow. We also consider the symbolic confrontation of Fascism and Communism at the Paris Exposition of 1937, followed by an exploration of the war art and visual propaganda produced by Germany and the USSR during WW2. In conclusion, we consider the legacy of totalitarianism in contemporary art and recent developments in Eastern Europe, including the growing authoritarianism of Putinism and the censorship of contemporary art in the Russian Federation. The bulk of assessment is devoted to a semester long research project on a topic developed by the student in consultation with the lecturer.

Learning Outcomes
- Deepen students' knowledge of the range of art produced under the patronage of a variety of 20th-century political regimes and to develop a critical understanding of the political, artistic, and ethical issues relevant to studying this art
- Develop awareness of the significance of this art and its reception to the broader histories of 20th century and contemporary art
- Cultivate independent research and self-motivated learning

*Course content subject to change