An Art Critic’s Secret Critique Of Hitler’s Paintings Shown Uncanny Insight
Watercolor painting by a young Adolf Hitler. Source: (upi.com)
Like other world leaders—George W. Bush, Winston Churchill, Jimmy Carter, Francisco Franco, and Queen Victoria, to name a few—Adolf Hitler enjoyed painting. In fact, his first career choice was not a Nazi dictator; it was an artist. In his youth, he was a prolific painter and hoped to be accepted into the prestigious Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. His portfolio, however, was rejected, leaving Hitler disappointed, frustrated, and angry, and perhaps, more messed up than he previously was. You can tell a lot about an artist from the works they produce, and these proved true for Hitler. Some sixty years after his death at the end of World War II, a well-respected art critic was shown Hitler’s work but not told who painted them. This critic’s evaluation of the fuhrer’s art was surprisingly accurate. Let’s look at Hitler, the frustrated artist.
Buildings and architecture were common themes in Hitler's paintings. Source: (allthatsinteresting.com)
Hitler the Artist
Even as a child, young Adolf Hitler stated that he wanted to be an artist. His strict and loveless father refused to consider this career choice. He tried to stifle Hitler’s artistic ambitions and enrolled him in a technical school. Hitler’s father died a few years later but Hitler finished the school’s program and, although he was a lackluster student, he graduated in 1905.
Like most amateur painters, Hitler started with landscape scenes. Source: (vintag.es)
Following His Dreams
Just a few years after graduating, Adolf Hitler finally decided to follow his dream of becoming a painter. His first step was to move to Vienna to immerse himself in the artistic community there. He hobnobbed with other artists, observed their works, and produced a dizzying number of his own paintings. Armed with his body of work, Hitler submitted his application to the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna’s elite school for artists, painters, and sculptors.
Hitler's watercolors showed some talent, but a total lack of emotion. Source: (upi.com)
The Death of a Dream
Adolf Hitler’s paintings were good enough for him to make it through the first round of the admission process to the Academy of Fine Arts. After a closer critique of his work, however, the Academy rejected his application…twice. The instructors at the prestigious school suggested that Hitler enroll in architecture school instead. One American critic, John Gunther, wrote of Hitler’s paintings in 1936, “They are prosaic, utterly devoid of rhythm, color, feeling, or spiritual imagination. They are architect's sketches painful and precise draftsmanship; nothing more. No wonder the Vienna professors told him to go to an architectural school and give up pure art as hopeless."
Had history turned out differently if Hitler got into art school? Source: (vanderbilthistoricalreview.com)
Plan B, Nazi Party Leader, and German Dictator
You know what happens next. Adolf Hitler’s charismatic personality propelled him to the top of German politics. His long hatred of the Jews and his desire to keep his country “pure” led him to order the extermination of all Jews, a horrific and brutal genocide that still ranks as the darkest time in human history. As ruler of Germany, Hitler was evil personified. His actions sparked the Second World War, a conflict that resulted in the deaths of more than 85 million people. Between sending his enemies to the gas chambers and commanding his armies to invade other countries, Hitler still painted, although this time in private. It was a hobby that he found and satisfying. Yet, it was impossible for his cruel, evil nature to not permeate in his artwork.
Many of Hitler's paintings were seized after his death. Source: (catinwater.com)
Where Are Hitler’s Paintings Now?
During his time as a starving artist in Vienna from 1908 to 1914, Hitler produced nearly 1,000 paintings, most of which he sold to support himself. After he reached the pinnacle of power in Germany, Hitler ordered one of his men, Peter Jahn, to track down and purchase as many of his watercolors and oil paintings as he could find…a formidable task. Most of the paintings that Jahn was able to acquire were destroyed by Hitler. After the fall of the Third Reich and the Allied siege of Berlin, many of the remaining paintings were confiscated by the United States Army and the militaries of other Allied countries.
Many of Hitler's surviving paintings have been sold at auction. Source: (euronews.com)
Four Hitler Watercolors
Four of Hitler’s watercolors are housed at the U.S. Army’s Fort Belvoir in Virginia. One of them is unique in that it shows a human figure. The vast majority of Hitler’s paintings were of buildings and landscapes that were devoid of human life. This one painting, however, shows a single woman. It is the lack of details on this person that has caught the eye of art critics. Marc Fisher of the Washington Post once wrote of this painting, “Would the woman’s utter lack of detail and the painting’s off absence of emotions stand out so sharply if we didn’t know what the become of the artist?” He added, “Is it possible to look at these antiseptic street scenes and see the roots of Hitler’s obsession with cleanliness and his belief that his mission in life was to cleanse Germany and the world of Judaism?”
A picture taken on February 8, 2019 shows the signature A Hitler on a watercolour entitled "Im Wald" (In the forest) Source: (Photo by DANIEL KARMANN AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL KARMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Blind Evaluation With Telling Results
In 2002, author Frederic Spotts showed an anonymous art critic several of Adolf Hitler’s paintings without telling the critic who the author was. Spotts asked the critic for a thorough and honest critique of the paintings. He wrote about the results of this experiment in his 2003 book, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics. The critic, according to Spotts, first noted that the paintings were “quite good.” The critic went on to point out how the human subjects were depicted and stated that the artists “displayed disinterest in the human race.” In Spotts’ book, he points out that Hitler had a small talent toward artistic endeavors but lacked technique and failed to evoke passion in his paintings. It seems that Hitler was unable to hide his sociopathic tendencies in his art, even as a young man, long before the dictator’s true evil manifested itself.