Did Hitler have any real artistic gifts ?
THE ARTISTIC TASTES OF A VINDICTIVE AMATEUR
In 1935, at a NSDAP convention, Hitler set his Art conceptions :"it is
not the function of Art to wallow in filth for filth's sake, to paint only
in the state of decay, to draw cretins as a symbol of becoming a
mother and to portray morons as models of virility." One can not
imagine more petit-bourgeois views of Art. And like every petit-
bourgeois on earth, Hitler was tremendously jealous of people more
talented, more gifted, more successful, the Kandinsky, Picasso,
Derain and other Max Ernst. A long list of men to be jealous of and to
try to annihilate in a way or another. Hitler had little feeling for new
developments because he could not comprehend or control them.
Since 1945, it has been very en vogue to deride Adolf Hitler: woes to
anyone who dares to say something good about him. Even those who
idolized him before the war have been mute and discrete; suddenly
victims of some rare form of amnesia. Only the mean skinheads and
other stupid bands of shaved skulls dared to display some support for
the dead dictator. For almost everyone else, Hitler was an ex-bricklayer
or a failed street-painter who had no idea of what he was doing. For
everybody he was a mad orator spitting his hatred while saliva
shrouded the corners of his mouth and that was it for Hitler in spite of
the thousands of books written about him but old clichés die hard.
But did Hitler have any talent ? Few critics take the risk to respond
positively and fewer people among the non-artistic world. The reason
for this is: few people have ever seen Hitler’s works. The second
reason is that nobody dares to stomach the ferocity of anti-Nazi
associations that immediately brand any positive comment concerning
Hitler or the lesser of his deeds, sayings or works as an attempt to
rehabilitate Nazism. So, people tend to clam up and get along with
their own business and, even if Hitler was an artistic genius (which he
was not), the odds that he would be one day accepted as such are very
However, let’s forget the censors and try to witness some unbiased
testimonies, unprejudiced facts or Hitler’s contemporaries comments.
There are not only censors. A handful of talented observers have tried
to explain Hitler's artistic aspirations and conceptions but they are not
largely read. One of them, Frederic Spotts and probably the best, wrote
a book entitled "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics" where he
expressed with conviction and force his views about Hitler's artistic
mind. I advise anybody really interested in this issue to read the book
available on Amazon for a couple of dollars.
My first personal opinion is that any person, gifted with even a small
sense of art and colors looking at Hitler’s watercolors, sketches,
caricatures or paintings, might consider that they testify to some talent.
The general impression though, especially for watercolors, is that of a
As we used to say in my childhood, about those of my relatives or
friends who tried to impress their entourage with their paintings, “this
is not bad” otherwise “it is not really good but let’s not discourage the
aspiring Picasso. He might become a Dali.” I bet that Daddy Hitler was
uttering the same reluctant comments, probably less diplomatically,
when he realized his son wanted to be a professional painter and not
an official agent like “the dear old man”.
Hitler always considered himself as a great artist and his main
problem in life was that, since childhood, he constantly prophecized
that he would achieve great things. The question is to determine
whether his father’s reluctance and his rejection by the Academy of
Fine Arts were justified.
The $64 million dollar answer is that Hitler’s examiners at the
Academy expressed harsh opinions about his works and dismissed
him with no small words: “it was really awful”, said one of them. Others
said the candidate Hitler had no idea how to paint or draw “heads” and
that “bodies were a mystery to him.” Hitler himself will admit that
reproducing human body was not his best talent in so far as he lacked
the training and the notions of perspective needed for that. Hitler was
an autodidact and he suffered all his life from his humble background
and his lack of school achievements.
In 1913, Giorgio De Chirico, 24 years old, who has dodged the year
before military draft, painted this Torre rossa and declared: "Confesso,
in verità, che devo molto anche a Federico Nietzsche, di cui ero allora
un appassionato lettore." (I must confess that I owe a lot to Friedrich
Nietzsche of whom I was an avid reader). Hitler was then 24 too and
did not produce anything of the same quality. He will dodge the draft in
1911 in Austria, but he will volunteer in 1914 in the German army.
Had Hitler Jr. been more encouraged by Alois Sr., maybe the young
Adolf would have been a more committed pupil at Linz’ RealSchule
and would have gotten the grades he needed to take the exam to the
School of Architecture. It is too late to rewrite XXth century history but
we will be better off trying to make up our mind by considering Hitler’s
art works, looking at the works and listening to some testimonies.
Hitler painted hundreds of canvasses. “In Vienna, he said, I painted at
least a thousand.” A lot of them are actually copies of postcards filled
in with watercolors. To give them an antique look, he used to hold
them near a fire until they turned brownish or sepia which can explain
the rather sad colors specific to Hitler's works. In 1945, a lot had been
destroyed, stolen, put away by some of his henchmen and a
considerable number seized by the US Army. Today Nazi memorabilia
and other Hitler possessions are stored at the American Federal
Archives and in the rooms of the Holocaust Memorial Museum under
the surveillance of its curator, Mrs Renée Klish, a Jew who declared
that “We have approximately 15,000 pieces in the collection itself, of
which 14,000 are in here.” These items are visible by appointment
only. A few escaped from federal hunting and are on offer in the US
market, sometimes on e-Bay or BidNazi (1).
A Houston businessman and collector of works by Eisenhower,
Churchill and Hitler, Billy Price had amassed in the 1960’s a nice
collection of Hitler’s watercolors (28) and drawings (5). But one day
some nut fired at him while he was working in his office to protest the
sheer spirit of the collection and Billy got the message wrong : at first
he tried to set up some Hitler’s works of Art shows but he was
vilipended as a Neo-Nazi and then he got the message right. He sold
24 of his 28 Hitlers but he did not reveal the proceeds although the
whole collection was insured for $4 millions.
According to Charles Snyder, ex-major of the US Air Force, currently
antiques dealer and who has acquired up to 50 works by Hitler,
"people and animals are out of proportion, poorly articulated, and
vastly out of scale with the backgrounds. Figures are rendered with
wanton disregard for anatomy or accurate animation.” " In 2002,
Snyder still possessed an oil canvass by Hitler with an asking price of
35,000 US dollars. Today Snyder points out that demand for Hitler’s
works is still very strong compared to the demand benefiting Churchill’
s and Eisenhower’s paintings who had both an evident talent.
But collectors have never declared any real interest for Hitler’s
paintings. However they were executed with photographic exactitude
which lent a three dimensional effect to the architecture and the
decorative details; their only real quality. Hitler was a good copier not
an imaginative artist. Collectors generally acknowledged that their
main motivation was rabid curiosity, pervert pleasure or money.
Furthermore, Hitler is particularly interesting to Americans. Only in
America are there cable channels that serve Hitler and the Third Reich
up around the clock for viewing, only in the U.S.A. does the Hitler art
market remain brisk and busy for one good reason: Nazi memorabilia
and Hitler’s works are forbidden for sale in most European countries,
Germany, France and Italy, ironically the Nazis, the Fascists or the
collaborators countries. The demand comes mainly from America,
England, Sweden and Australia.
Even Hitler had doubts about the very quality of his works. In June
1937, interviewed by the magazine "Kunst dem Volke", he declared
that “the fact to have painted canvasses to survive in Vienna does not
mean that these paintings are today worth exhibiting at the 'Haus der
Deutschen Kunst' (German Art House)."
As an adolescent, filled with romantic clichés, Hitler was influenced by
Austrian watercolor artist, von Alt (1862-1905), and by German painter
Carl von Spitzweg (1808-1888). The opposite watercolor by Herr Adolf
does not indicate that these influences have permeated Hitler’s talent,
however the watercolor below shows a correct appreciation of
According to Nazi Party’s ideologist, the German-balte Alfred
Rosenberg, Hitler’s watercolors “reveal a natural talent, a sense of the
essential and a real gift for drawing.” However Rosenberg, who was
hung in 1945, said also that Hitler’s tastes in the field of paintings
were typically petit-bourgeois, a trait that his watercolors, to my
opinion, profusely reveal. Hitler’s naïve paitings are miles away from
the rebellion and the explorations of Cubism and Surrealism that Hitler
In 1936, Hitler appointed the second rank and very conventional Adolf
Ziegler as head of the Reichskammer der bildenden Künste where he
stayed until 1943.
A year later, to please his dear Führer, Ziegler, the yes-yes man,
withdrew from German museums over 5000 paintings accused of
being representative of the “degenerated art” (Entartete Kunst)
including works by Max Ernst, Franz Marc, Max Beckman, Emil Nolde,
Oskar Kokoschka, George Grosz, Alexander Archipenko, Georges
Braque, Marc Chagall, Giorgio de Chirico, Robert Delaunay, André
Derain, Theo van Dösburg, James Ensor, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van
Gogh, Albert Gleizes, Alexei Jawlensky, Fernand Léger, El Lissitzky,
Franz Masereel, Henri Matisse, László Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian,
Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Georges Rouault, Maurice Vlaminck et
The word "entarte" was coined in 1892 by the Hungarian Jew Max
Nordau who was a Zionist leader, physician, author and social critic.
Literally it means "strayed from one's kind" and not really "degenerate".
It was a very fashionable term in Vienna's fin de siècle. For Nordau, art
should not glorify the ugly and not mix together all artistic genres, if it
does, it becomes "Entarte". Nordau wrote that "we are now infected by
a serious popular mental illness, a sort of black pleague of
degenration and hysteria." Funily enough, for Nordau, the best
representatives of that school of thought were...Wagner and Nietzsche
!!! To him, Wagner was a "vermin antagonistic to society". That Hitler
was influenced by ideas like this can not be denied : all his artistic
conceptions were permeated by views similar to Nordau's and in 1941
he went as far as calling hunters "entarte farmers" (sic).
In 1937, in Munich, Ziegler organized an exhibition of the “Entartete
Kunst” that drew 2 millions visitors to the great chagrin of Herr Adolf
although a lot of them came to criticize the entarte works and made fun
of them. The stupidity of the Nazis policies and tastes then became
blatant but the German people were not yet convinced. Some Boston
art critic even wrote :" There are plenty of peole, art lovers, in Boston
who will side with Hitler in this particular purge."
The next year, Adolf Ziegler organized a great Exhibition of German Art
with mediocre success. Over 25,000 works of art landed on the desk
of the jury : Adolf Ziegler and the sculptor Arno Breker took over the
selection of the works and in addition, Hitler and Josef Goebbels were
personally involved in the decisions. About 900 works came into the
closer choice of which 600 were finally selected. All these art works
were not bad but showed too often subservience to Nazi ideology.
Artists -even the most talented like Arno Breker- who compromised
with the Nazis lived to regret their artistic treachery. At the end of the
war, Breker’s three studios were bulldozed by the allies and 80% of
his works were destroyed. Breker, a genius but a fervent Nazi,
supported by Jean Cocteau and Henry Moore, could never recover his
former status. As would say Hans Hollein, « we should be happy that
Hitler did not like Viennese escalopes.» However, the responsibility of
artists like Breker in the rise of the IIIRd Reich can not be denied : his
statues were the artistic expressions of the Nazi philosophy and his
colossal talent can not be an excuse.
Happy or not, anybody who compares the "Compositions" of
Kandinski, co-founder of the Abstract Art in 1911 in Munich, (see
opposite « Composition IV » of 1911, the three first Compositions
were destroyed during WWII) to the “compositions” (sic) of Hitler who
led a bum’s life in Vienna at the same time, will be flabbergasted by
the difference of vision, ambition, creativity and broadness that their
respective compositions display. On another hand, works of artists like
Jackson Pollock , born in 1912, who enjoys a worldwide reputation,
are so poor and so confused that one can sometimes understand
what the Nazis had in mind. Delirium does not mean talent.
To me it is evident that the future Führer, confronted with the
overwhelming genius of Kandinsky and his team of abstract artists,
harbored envy, jealousy and eventually hatred: the hatred of the
mediocre artist outcasted by superior talents and intelligence. It is this
intense hatred that makes Hitler a failed artist not the mediocrity of his
When Hitler tried a second chance in Munich as a street-artist,
Kandinsky, then aged only 44, was already triumphing. In 1909, while
Adolf Hitler reached almost total poverty in his second year in Vienna,
Kandinsky, along with several other artists, had founded a school
known as the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Artists
Alliance, Munich). Like their contemporaries, the Brücke group in
Dresden, they wanted to attract new and revolutionary artists to further
their cause for a "superabundance of the beautiful, the strange, the
mysterious, the terrible, and the divine ". It is worth a look to compare
what Hitler has been painting so far to what Kandinsky was painting
and the reader will be easily convinced. The sensation of a small
talent, without any genius or inspiration, deprived of any ambition,
innovation or creativity, is overwhelming. The 1937 German Art Great
Exhibition might as well been a settlement of old scores between
Hitler the failed Viennese street-artist and Jewish talented and
successful artists; most of them from Russian origin and suspected of
"red" and revolutionary sympathies. Later Hitler developed the hatred
of the under-gifted for the super-talented.
Another German soldier-painter who went through hell too, Max
Beckmann, alias Mad Max, had tried before the war to paint with
realism the sinking of the Titanic(1912). He was snubbed by the critics
and when he came back from the war he decided that he would use
his talent for a different sort of expressionism. He painted this
explosive self portrait "mad Max" that drew this flattering comment from
André Malraux :" You did not come back from Hell empty handed!".
Hitler was incapable to follow the same path of revolt and to express
his feelings as did Beckermann. He chosed politics because his
superiors discovered he had some oratory talents instead.
During the Nuremberg trial, Rosenberg, a fanatical Nazi, declared: “:
Hitler had great faith in his mission and in his people, he was
tenacious to the point to overrun any obstacles, gifted for simplification
to the point of creative genius, haunted by an overwhelming passion
and a iron will, subjected to affect explosions and prone to
overestimate what was domestically possible.” But, in spite of this
terrific eulogy, Rosenberg will not mention Hitler’s artistic gifts
because he knew too well there was not any.
Asked about Hitler’s talents, Rosenberg only mentioned his oratory
talents which were too well known of the allies in 1945. Hitler used this
talent to access to power in 1933. According to French author,
Francois Delpla, “Hitler fought all his life any excess of imagination,
including his own.” This is more than doubtful because I personally
believe that Hitler had visions of grandeur but no imagination. But as
Frederic Spotts says, "Hitler's problem - in a way his tragedy - was that
he confused aesthetic drive with artistic talent". But there is no
escaping the central role that art played in his life and in the political
drama of National Socialism more especially as he was a failed artistit
himself. As Martha Dood, daughter of the US ambassador in Berlin
wrote in her "Memoirs" : “It is obvious that his ideals of art stem from
his own frustrated ambitions as a painter and an architect. It is equally
obvious that the enforcement of his ideals in this particular line would
be as strict and ruthless as other enforcements, especially because
he believes he knows this field better than others and because he was
formerly denied the right to realize his ‘genius.’ Now he can run
rampant with no one to stop him, designate the type of art to produced
in Germany, and even design the buildings himself."
As Hitler stuck to reality and real life as though he knew he could not
imagine something else, he eventually got scared to death by the
inventions of the turn of the century in plastic arts and painting; he felt a
total stranger to new limits that people like Kandinsky, Picasso and the
rest were setting. He felt it threatened the sheer notion of Art itself. He
passed over the new artistic currents he could not understand or
comprehend. So, once in power, he turned to politics and sided with
“political and civic art”; a mere exaltation of the would-be superiority of
the Aryan race whose expression could only be huge, banal or
One of the favorite Hitler's painters was Eduard von Grützner (1846-
1925) who painted tipsy monks and inebriated butlers. He seriously
pretended that one day Grützner would be as worthy as Rembrandt
who could not have painted better.
Eventually the new german "Kultur" could only obeyed to five principles
that were so defined by the party itself :
- it must be "healthy" i.e.it is to shun what the Nazis consider
ugly and morbid
- it must be "heroic", i.e. there is to be no sympathy for
pacisfism, no defeatism, no Christian nonsense about
- it is to glorify fecundity
- it must glorify life on the soil and ennoble the farmer
- the workman too is to be exalted
In 1909 Kandinsky had stated that "the artist must train not only his
eye but also his soul, so that it can weigh colors on its own scale and
thus become a determinant in artistic creation". Hitler was totally alien
to that sort of artistic preoccupations. Art was a far away domain to
which he was a total stranger in spite of all his claims.
In conclusion, all in all the impression left by his watercolours is one of
a static and emotionally empty depiction of scenes aspiring to
photograph-like quality. Hilter was incapable of creating a word
instead of copying it. His works display a basic conventionality of
outlook, a longing for a world order, a narrow idea of beauty and an
interest in buildings rather than people.Their real and unique interest
is because of who painted them. I think that confronted to the new
wave of the young century, Hitler felt overcome, ridiculed and sent back
to his simplest expression : the one of a second rank street-painter
whose incredible ambitions were disproportional to his possibilities.
The genius and talent of the artistic new comers reduced Hitler’s
ambitions to crumbs. Once in power, the reincarnated “Führer” will try
to annihilate them.
As Sir Neville Henderson, British ambassador to Berlin, once said:
"One of Hilter’s most marked characteristics was sheer
vindictiveness, and his resentments were enduring and intensely
disagreeable for anyone on whom it was in his power to exercise
them." Rudolph Hanish who dared to comment badly on Hitler's talent
in some "Memoirs" published before the war finished in strange
circumstances in a concentration camp.
On April 13 1945, the Berlin Philharmonic played Bruckner's Fourth, as
a recognised sign that the Third Reich was reaching its own last bars.
At the exits, members of the Hitler Youth handed out free cyanide
capsules. Unimaginable wickedness and horror ended to the sound
of sublime music. Hitler' artistic twisted soul produced horror until the
(1) BidNazi disappeared without notice from the Internet and e-Bay
France can not accept -under anti-racist laws- auctions for nazis items.
France's leaders too have not finished to be haunted by the
"Kollaboration" past of their predecessors.
|Rudolf von Alt, austrian painter
deceased in 1905, had a strong
influence over Hitler which is
understandable when confronted to this
watercolor of Monreale, near Palerma
|This sketch of his mistress Geli
Raubal does not reveal a great
talent. To say the least it is
really mediocre. Some
pretend that this nude and
numerous other Hitler sketches
and paintings are fraudulent.
They were made, they say, by
a con-artist named Konrad
Kujau who became famous in
1983 as the creator of the
so-called Hitler Diaries, for
which he received 9.3 million
DM from the magazine Stern. I
personally thinbk that Kujau
had more talent than that.
|Adolf Ziegler (1892-1959), one of
Hitler’s favorite artists, painted this
remarkably conventional “Nu”. Ziegler
was appointed by Hitler Director of the
Arts Chamber that says all about the
Chancellor tastes and artistic views.
In 1937, at the opening of the
Degenerate Art Exhibition, Ziegler
declared:"As in all things, the Folk trust
the judgment of one man, our Leader.
He knows which way German art must
go in order to fulfil its task as a
projection of the German character."
Grown out of resistance to
modernization, German fascism was a
counter-revolution against modernism.
Since the expressions of modernism
were most obvious in literature, music,
and art, artists became special targets
of Nazi propaganda.
"A painting by a schizophrenic in a
mental hospital, used to say nazi
propaganda, looks more human than
any concoction of Paul Klee." In
conclusion, tell me which painter you
like and I will tell you who you are.
|Chirico like Hitler did not get to
any Art school but his talent is
undeniable. One can only love
this painting for its simplicity
and its imagination
|The market value of
this watercolor by
Hitler, showing Munich’
s MarienPlatz, is a
good indication of its
author talent. It was
sold in January, 2003,
in London for the small
sum of 3,000 Pounds.
Its owner was a certain
|On another hand the works of
artists like Jackson Pollock (cf.
above pic), born in 1912, who
enjoys a worldwide reputation are
poor and seem to justify Hitler's
|To compare Egon Schiele's "Nu"
1910 and Hitler's Geli (above
left) is insulting to Schiele.
Hitler will hate Schiele who
succeeded the exam at the
Vienna Art School that he flunked
|This draft of the military version
of the Beetle was done by Hitler
and proposed to Ferdinand
Porsche for execution. The
famous model proved extremely
reliable, useful and popular
during and after the war.
|Hitler loved to think of himself
as a great artist and
connoisseur in Art and
Architecture. He willingly
lectured everybody on the
subject. Here he is explaining
to furniture designer Gerdy
Troost his conceptions of Art :
no Jews, no Modernists, no
Liberals, no Bolsheviks... She
seems confused. In the end,
she stopped to come to his
German Art exhibitions, she
was too upset by his tastes.
Her husband Paul Troost, died
in 1934, and was Hitler's
favorite architect until his
|Egon Schiele's Green stockings can
not compare to Hitler's poor renderings
of boring landscapes. Schiele was
admitted to the Vienna Art School
which refused Hitler and Hitler always
|Max Beckmann tried first to
paint hype-realist scenes (here
the sinking of the Titanic) and
was snubbed then he turned to
Expressionism and was greeted
|All Hitler's watercolours and
compositions are not mediocre, some
are quite decent and show a real
artistic sensitivity and talent. But
most of the good ones are more
remarkable for their architectural
composition than for the delicacy or
the inspiration of the work.
|It is difficult to believe that the same
man painted the two above
watercolours. The evolution of the
artist is obvious and lets the beholder
suppose that Adolf Hitler could have
achieved something in artistic life if
he had been encouraged in his
painted by Eduard von
Grutzner, one of Hitler's
favorites : not particularly
"healthy" or "heroic"
|Der Fuehrer even thought he had talent
for interior designing although his
creations were generally massive,
heavy and very traditional.
|This original hand-coloured
etching by Grützer, in spite of
Hitler's predictions, was
recently offered on auction at
asking price $145
|To please Hitler and their nazis masters,
German artists had to execute that sort
of touching "tableau de famille" exalting
civic virtues, patriotism and solidarity.
This painting is by Adolf Wissel (Farm
Family from Kahlenberg, 1939)
|Another Hitler's favorite
painter, Alfred Ziegler was for
some time the boss of the
German art scene before to
fall from grace during the war.
|Max Beckmann, alias Mad
Max, had tried before the
war to paint with realism the
sinking of the Titanic(1912).
He was snubbed by the
critics and when he came
back from the war he
decided that he would use
his talent for a different sort
|The Arc of Triumph in Munich by Hitler
shows his sense of proportions and his
abilities to do some good architectutal
design. Hitler would have probably made a
good architect although not a genius or an
|The only art that Hitler could understand :
Nazi Art, here is a remarkable example
|For Hitler and the Nazis, Art
should glorify something, exalt
some patriotic virtues, talk to the
desire to be strong, unselfish
and ready to supreme sacrifice.
Arno Breker, Hitler's favorite
sculptor, although a genius,
perfectly fitted in this philosophy.
HITLER THE ARTIST
|Opposite a watercolor by Rudolf von Alt (left)
and one by Adolf Hitler (right), which
connoisseurs will compare with amusement.
Click on each to get a enlarged picture and
really compare von Alt's and Hitler's skills.
The mediocrity of Hitler's talent is
"Hitler was basically an artist." Albert Speer,
Architect, Minister of Armaments
"Hitler was basically an architect." John Toland,
"Hitler was basically a pretentious autodidact."
Michel Cahier, Webmaster
Art in 1911 in
The worst of Hitler's
artistic traits is his total
ignorance of the German
which started in Münich
exactly at the same time
he was staying in Vienna
and when he was a
fanatic pro-German. The
autodidact in him was not
even capable to recognize
the grandeur and the aims
of this movement and
constantly ignored it. After
the war, Hitler loathed its
constantly berated the
examiners of the Art
School in Vienna who
admitted Egon Schiele and
|Founder of Die Brücke
movement in Dresden
(here in a Self portrait as
a soldier 1915), he went
to war like Hitler but
came back with different
ideas more useful for
the society. Franz Marc
died in 1916 at the front
and Max Beckman too
came back from war
with an enhanced talent.
Hitler came back from
WW1 with hatred in his
heart but not for war.
Hitler was not an artist,
he only had the pretense
to have a sensitive soul.
|Expressionist Hermann Max
Pechstein's woodcut "And do
not let us into temptation" may
announce Hitler's accession to
power. For the Führer, such art
works were the epitome of
"entarte art' especially because
of their African connections.
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