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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Hitler a great artist? Nein!

    Justyn DillinghamEditor-in-Chief
    Justyn Dillingham
    Editor-in-Chief

    Now it can be told, almost a century after it ceased to matter: Adolf Hitler had no future as an artist.

    Yes, long before Hitler entered politics, he spent several years of his life struggling to make a living as a painter.

    No, not a house-painter – though I’m sure there’s a parallel universe out there where Hitler was known as the Weimar Republic’s greatest interior decorator – but an honest-to-goodness (or perhaps “”honest-to-badness””) starving artist, and 21 paintings and two sketches attributed to the future Führer were sold this week at a London auction for $223,000.

    This discovery has some minor historical importance. While no one would accuse the Nazis of lacking a sense of style – Leni Riefenstahl’s famous propaganda film “”Triumph of the Will”” has been accused of influencing everything from MTV to “”Star Wars”” – it’s clear that little of this can be traced back to the guy in charge.

    The leader of Germany’s Third Reich might have been history’s greatest windbag, but as an artist, he was a washout.

    None of the paintings are at all good or even competent. They wouldn’t receive fourth place at a county fair in South Dakota. They display all the formal klutziness of an extreme amateur who probably couldn’t get a job painting over graffiti.

    Still, as anyone who’s tried to read “”Mein Kampf”” (which might more accurately have been titled “”My Long Boring Story””) can imagine, Hitler was certainly better with a brush than he was with a pen.

    Hitler’s not the only famous leader whose blustering exterior hid the sensitive heart of a frustrated artist. As a teenager, before his conversion to radical communism, Joseph Stalin wrote sappy love poetry. When he wasn’t making speeches, Winston Churchill was a distinguished amateur painter. Mao Tse-Tung painted the first ever picture of dogs playing poker. (Okay, I made that one up.)

    But for sheer aesthetic awfulness, it’s hard to top the most awful man of them all.

    The paintings were found in a Belgium attic two decades ago. Experts who examined them at the time believe they were Hitler’s work (presumably because of the “”A. Hitler”” signature on each of them), but their authenticity, for obvious reasons, is difficult to verify.

    Hitler presumably painted them while recovering from the wounds he sustained as a corporal fighting in the Kaiser’s army in World War I – the experience that led no less distinguished a thinker than former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, in a book review, to describe the Fuhrer as “”an individual of great courage.”” (“”Not as courageous as me, of course,”” one imagines Buchanan muttering to himself.)

    The details of the auction, which attracted buyers from all over the world, are even more bizarre than the premise.

    According to Ananova.com, a British news Web site, five of the paintings were bought by “”a Russian buyer in dark glasses who refused to speak to anyone,”” accompanied by a stuffed bear that dangled from his backpack. Imagining the scene, I can’t help but catch a glimpse of Alfred Hitchcock, making his usual cameo.

    To top it off, the auction was disrupted by a Hitler impersonator who shouted “”Six million! These aren’t Hitlers; they’re Mussolinis!”” before being dragged from the room. Perhaps this scene would be better rendered by John Waters than Hitchcock.

    These amusing details can easily distract us from more troubling questions posed by this strange tale. Isn’t there something a bit tasteless about hawking the Führer’s wares and profiting from the sale?

    After all, these paintings would be less than worthless if they weren’t done by a man who went on to start the bloodiest war in history and order the murder of millions of innocents.

    But in our degraded times, a story that would once have outraged the world barely registers as a scandal.

    Those involved in the auction were hardly apologetic. A retired American professor who bought one of the paintings told the press: “”The colouring of the picture I bought is completely different to all the others, so if any of them are fakes this is probably the one. But you know what, I don’t mind, the experience has been worth it.””

    If that’s your idea of a good time, then maybe you deserve to have one of Hitler’s watercolors on display in the den. Myself, I’m content with my garden gnome, based on an original design by Ivan the Terrible.

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