Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Paintings by Adolf Hitler Auctioned

An auction of paintings attributed to the German dictator Adolf Hitler was recently held. Bidders from around the world entered the Jefferys auctioneer's premises in Cornwall in the hopes of purchasing one of the pieces. The paintings, which were found in an attic, sold for very high prices. (21 paintings were sold.)

There has been much controversy over the issue of Adolf Hitler and his art. Some feel that art played a major role in his bitterness (due to his failure to 'make it' as an artist himself.)and that it helped him to plan his rise to power. Others feel that his art took a back-burner and that it did not play a role in the decisions he made during his rule over Germany. However, auctions of his work are not the only source of this debate.

A firestorm of debate occured when the movie "Max" (2002) was released in theatres. The movie was loosely based on Hitlers struggle as an aspiring artist and touted the slogan 'Art + Politics = Power'. The film depicted Hitler in a very 'human' manner which caused the film to recieve much critisim since history views him as a 'monster'.

Many feared that people would have sympathy for Hitler upon viewing the film. Thus, the debate over the importance of his art, in regards to his actions, was further fueled.

I recently contacted Dr. Robert Kunath, a professor of history, about this very issue. The following is some highlights of that discussion. Dr. Kunath tried to explain how Hitler's views on art may have played a role in how he designed his rule.

"I've done a good deal of work on the subject of how the Nazis understood art. Hitler's own art was pretty mediocre and the interest in it today is because he produced it, not because it is regarded as especially impressive. Indeed, Hitler himself said that his artistic talent really wasn't in painting, but rather in architecture.

Hitler's architecture was gargantuan, and not to the modern taste, but he did have a certain talent for organizing shapes in space. The best evidence of that is the massive Nazi rallies, which Hitler planned meticulously. In that sense, I think Hitler did see art as a vital force in politics.

The first major building project begun after Hitler came to power was the "House of German Art" in Munich, and the speech he gave there lays out an artistic program in some detail. There was also the Nazi's sustained effort to wipe out modern art in Germany.

Hitler's primary political vision was based in racism, but he also believed that the best proof of racial superiority was cultural excellence. Hitler defined that cultural excellence by the standards of the past, so he wanted buildings in the Greco-Roman style, and paintings following in the tradition of the old masters and the 19th century genre painters.

There's a pretty good documentary about art in Hitler's political world-view: it's called "The Architecture of Doom" and it makes some very interesting connections between Hitler's vision of art and his plans for conquest and mass murder. I think the movie (Max) is wrong to suggest that art was a driving force of Hitler's ideology--Darwinian racism was the foundation--but art was an important component.

One book that you might find useful on this subject is Frederick Spotts' _Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics_, which considers both Hitler's art and his views on the power of art in politics and society. There's also a very good article by O. K. Werckmeister called _Hitler the Artist_ in the magazine _Critical Inquiry_ . There has also been a lot written about Hitler and music--his love of Wagner, for example, which is very interesting because Wagner was a true musical genius, and also a poisonous hater of Jews." - Dr. Robert Kunath

So as you can observe, there are a lot of opinions about Hitler and his art. Does it really matter if we know just how art may have played a role in his wave of destruction? Is it important so that we may have a better understanding of how one man could cause so much strife? Should Hitler be observed for his human-side within the context of his monster-like actions? Does it matter? What do you think about his artwork recieving so much money when many talented artists of greater skill can barely sell one painting? Discuss.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

6 comments:

jkretch said...

I would believe that Hitler's art is going for a high price due to the historical value... and not due to the artistic value. I would be willing to bet that the majority of people buying these pieces are by historians and not necessarily art collectors. To me, his art is more of an artifact than and actual piece of art.

Robert said...

You can apply methods of phycological study to Hitler's paintings and find out theories that may give some insight into the kind of person he was. I don't think this really matters, he wasn't a good painterand thats all there is to it. If there had been art fairs like there are today things may have turned out differently for him. As far as his works being sold for such large sums today, that's just part of that cult of celebrity. If you don't believe me just look at the art of John Wayne Gacy or Charles Manson. Gacy had exhibitions in major galleries. This also brings up matters of the last blog and celebrity artist. The audiences are different in every case and even though there may be some overlap, the only concern for the artist should be making good art. Everything else follows, be it fame, fortune, or world domination.

Balhatain said...

What do you think about the people who say that his artwork should be destroyed?

There have been always been rumors about people buying his art simply to burn it.

Anonymous said...

compared with the modern rubbish
that passes as art ,dead animals
and piles of bricks which makes a fortune for untalented con artists
hitler contribution to the art world is of no less value and some of his paintings are quite good

Anonymous said...

Adolf Hitler was a MONSTER! But he was also a talented artist! All the claims that he wasn't an artist come from the 'HITLER-PHOBIA OF THE TALENTED ARTIST COMMUNITY!'. Our artists, well!, fear that if Hitler is listed amongst them then they too will be seen as monsters! Can we exclude Hitler amongst 'HOMOSAPIENS' as well? He didn't come from outer space and neither was he a gorilla! He was the son of two humans, ate human food, went to human schools, fought human wars and always performed above average! Hitler was a monster because the worst monters, since creation, are amongst humans!
Amongst artists Adolf Hitler will remain 'THE JOKER IN THE PACK' of all the time! From my point of view most of his works leave some sinister message behind (evil joker style), in a way not very differen from modern art. No wonder why modern art was baned in the third reich, save for him and the NAZI movement (in a way!)
The swastica, whether encient or medieval in origin, his idea for the party logo, was actually a modern art painting of a storming person (HITLER?).
The architecture of 'Volkswagen beetle' was also his idea! He is said to have insisted that, besides manufacturing cost and fuel economy, the car 'SHOULD RESEMBLE A BEETLE'! From my point of view, this alse leaves another clue about how 'THE JOKER' viewed our 'POSH SOCIETY' in which everyone wants a self-driven car! And it turns out, the cars are just beetles plaguing our already dying planet with 'GREEN HOUSE EFFECT AND ALL!' making Hitler a visionary artist!
Those who claim that Hitler was not an artist should also visit the photo archives of his rallies (especially the Nuremberg rallies).
Art motives didn't take the monster to power, but when he finally got there he proved himself!
I belong to a race he would have exterminated, after the jews, (blacks) but I still accept him as very human and a great artist! and blame all of humanity for racism. for racism didn't go with him!

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