Adam, Peter 1929-

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ADAM, Peter 1929-

PERSONAL: Born August 3, 1929, in Berlin, Germany; immigrated to England. Education: Attended Antioch College; Sorbonne, University of Paris, M.A.; University of Berlin, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Home— 55 Milson Rd., London W14 0LH, England; fax: 44-207-602-1181.

CAREER: British Broadcasting Corp., London, England, director, 1967—, and executive producer. Filmmaker, including more than 100 television documentaries, including Lawrence Durrell's Spirit of Place, Richard Strauss Remembered, and Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill, all broadcast by British Broadcasting Corp.; other documentaries include The Borges, Charles de Gaulle, Cuba—Art and Revolution, David Hockney at Work, Edward Albee, Hans Werner Henze, Hildegard Behrens, Jeanne Moreau, Kino Perestroika, Lillian Hellman, Lucchino Visconti at Work, Man Ray, The New British Theatre, The New German Cinema, Rudolf Nureyev, Russia—Art and Revolution, and The War in Biafra; director for stage and television productions, including Happy End, Soldier's Tale, and the ballet Song Lines. Also public lecturer.

AWARDS, HONORS: British Academy of Film and Television Arts, British Academy Award nominations, best factual program, 1976, for Lawrence Durrell's Spirit of Place, and best arts program, 1987, for GeorgeGershwin Remembered, and British Academy Award, best arts documentary of the year, 1989, for Art of the Third Reich; Gold Star Award, best full-length documentary, Houston Film Festival, 1985, for Richard Strauss Remembered; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding special, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1988, for George Gershwin Remembered; British Film Institute Award nomination, 1990, for Art of the Third Reich; Prix Italia selection for the documentary film Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill; nomination for Annual Cable Excellence Award, National Cable Television Association, for Art of the Third Reich.


Eisenstädt by Eisenstädt, Abbeville Press (New York), 1985.

Kertesz by Kertesz, Abbeville Press (New York), 1985.

Eileen Gray, Architect-Designer: A Biography, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 1987, revised edition, 2000.

Art of the Third Reich (based on his two-part television documentary film of the same name), HarryN. Abrams (New York, NY), 1992.

Not Drowning but Waving (autobiography), Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1995.

(With Jackie Kay) David Hockney and His Friends, Absolute Press (London, England), 1997.

A Design Classic: Eileen Gray's E 1027 Table, Form (Frankfurt, Germany), 1999.

Contributor to international magazines. Editor of the periodicals Arena Theatre and Review. Adam's writings have been published in Italy, Germany, France, Japan, Spain, and Russia.

television series

Architecture at the Crossroads, British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC-TV), 1985.

"The Stage Management of Power" (part one of Art of the Third Reich), BBC-TV, 1988.

"The Propaganda Machine" (part two of Art of the Third Reich), BBC-TV, 1988.

Also scriptwriter and director of the documentary series Architecture at the Crossroads, Democracy on Trial, George Gershwin Remembered, Six Master Photographers, Them and Us, and other television scripts.

SIDELIGHTS: "During the twelve nightmare years of Adolf Hitler's rule," wrote Wall Street Journal contributor Helen Dudar, "the only contemporary art allowed on the walls of the museums and public buildings of Germany were pictures delivering the canny imagery of Nazi ideology: soothing family kitchen scenes; clean, sturdy farm folk in the fields; young, richly muscled defenders of the Reich, all of them blond with short noses." "At the same time," stated Gordon A. Craig in the New York Times Book Review, "since National Socialism was supposed to be the final realization of the Greek ideal, there was a new vogue of mythological painting." "Naked but carefully unaphrodisiac German women," Craig continued, "… posed as Greek goddesses, as in Adolf Ziegler's 'Judgment of Paris' … in which the goddesses are clearly too virginal for their known reputations and Paris is obviously thinking of something else, perhaps his chances of becoming an SS Gruppenfuhrer."

Since the end of World War II, this Nazi art has been concealed from the public. "Anyone hoping to see the collection," Dudar explained, "must either have a degree in art history or a persuasive claim to a need to know." In his book Art of the Third Reich, film producer Peter Adam brings many of these forgotten relics of the Nazi era to light in order to show how the National Socialists manipulated all the art forms in order to spread their myth of Aryan superiority. "The visual arts," declared London Observer contributor Richard Overy, "became tools of indoctrination, expressions of Hitler's preoccupation with race and empire."

According to Willibald Sauerlaender in the New York Review of Books, one of the points Adam makes in his book is that "in an ironic reversal of the situation in 1937, Nazi art is now banned, while so-called 'degenerate' art has once again found its legitimate place in public collections." "Certainly nothing is wrong in principle with the landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and figurative paintings that people of conservative tastes like to hang on their walls," Sauerlaender continued. "In an open society, there can be no moral or aesthetic obligation for any citizen to like modern art, and it is absurd to believe that an abstract painting is by definition more democratic than a view of a lake, a cow, or a bunch of flowers." In many ways, says Adam, this popular appeal is one of the things that makes Nazi art so frightening. "Adam consistently maintains that what is most terrifying about Nazi art," stated Brooks Adams in Art in America, "is how banal it all looks. In this he follows Hannah Arendt's classic hypothesis about the banality of evil. As he observes in his conclusion, 'What is frightening about all these works of art is not so much what was Fascist about them, but what was normal, a normality which pleased so many.'"

While critics have recognized the value of Adam's study, some disagreed with his conclusion that art was in fact dead in Germany while the Third Reich was in power. Adam, according to New Statesman and Society contributor Peter Campbell, claimed that the official Nazi artists lacked "'driving force, the energy which could only come from conflict and from a burning desire to break with old habits.'" He declared that "… the official support system that removed Velasquez or Rubens from 'abrasiveness' did them no harm." Robert Dassanowsky-Harris wrote in the American Book Review, "Despite the copious examples of kitsch, imitation, and doctrinaire work in his book, can Adam truly conclude … that there was no 'real art' in Germany between 1933 and 1945.… Evenwith the smoke of Auschwitz hanging in memory, the answer must be no." Nonetheless, Overy concluded, "Adam's book is a plea for cultural diversity and cultural toleration and is all the more valuable for that."



American Book Review, April-May, 1993, Robert Dassanowsky-Harris, review of Art of the Third Reich, pp. 14, 20.

American Record Guide, September-October, 1994,p. 278.

Architectural Record, April, 2001, Clifford Pearson, review of Eileen Gray, Architect-Designer: A Biography, p. 70.

Art in America, October, 1992, Brooks Adams, review of Art of the Third Reich, pp. 47, 49, 51.

Art Journal, spring, 1993, pp. 94-95, 97, 99.

British Journal of Photography, March 25, 1983.

Central European History, March, 1992, pp. 361-64.

Library Journal, October 1, 1997, review of David Hockney and His Friends, p. 92.

New Statesman and Society, May 29, 1992, Peter Campbell, review of Art of the Third Reich, p. 41.

New York Review of Books, April 21, 1994, Willibald Sauerlaender, review of Art of the Third Reich, pp. 16-18.

New York Times Book Review, June 21, 1992, Gordon A. Craig, review of Art of the Third Reich, pp. 13-14.

Observer (London), May 17, 1992, Richard Overy, review of Art of the Third Reich, p. 54.

Past & Present, August, 1999, Peter Jelavich, "National Socialism, Art and Power in the 1930s,"p. 244.

Publishers Weekly, October 6, 1997, review of David Hockney and His Friends, p. 68.

Times Literary Supplement, May 5, 1995, p. 26; September 12, 1997, review of David Hockney and His Friends, p. 33; July 13, 2001, John Winter, review of Eileen Gray, Architect-Designer, p. 19.

Wall Street Journal, June 15, 1992, Helen Dudar, review of Art of the Third Reich, p. A11.*