Movement, Style, School or Type of Art:
Hitler described himself as a painter in the Academic tradition.
Most everyone else who's seen his work has described Hitler's painting style as either "Bad" or "Extremely bad."
Date and Place of Birth:
April 20, 1889, Braunau am Inn, Austria
Though he became convinced in his youth that he possessed great artistic talent, very few other people (besides his own mother) felt similarly about Adolf Hitler. He received an "excellent" mark in Art during his final year of formal schooling, but his failure to complete a Leaving Certificate in the U.S. equivalent of high school did him no favors when he first took the exam to enter the prestigious Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien (Academy of Fine Art in Vienna) in 1907.
Ostensibly rejecting him for lack of academic skills, the Academy's admissions department also commented on Hitler's lack of understanding of human anatomy. Undaunted, Hitler again took the entrance exam in 1908, with similar results. He temporarily refocused on a future in architecture but this, too, did not come to pass due to lack of education. Regrettably, he then embarked upon a well-documented crooked path toward attempted world domination after this final artistic disappointment.
Despite that which came later, he never fully took his attention off art or doubted he had a place in its annals. Beginning in 1935, recovered "early Hitlers" were spirited away and stored for a planned gallery. Other artists weren't as lucky, many having their work confiscated and/or being denied a license to make art on the whim of the National Socialist Party. Many thousands of important existing works were appropriated from their rightful owners, sold and even burned during the Nazi regime.
We'll never know if the history of the 20th Century may have been vastly altered - and millions of lives not been cut tragically short - had Hitler been accepted to art school in 1907 or 1908. The only certainties we can garner from Hitler's aborted career as a fine artist are those phrases that adults continually mouth to young people: stay in school, get along with others and don't steal or murder.
None of his own.
The most important thing Hitler did for art was to spotlight the "Degenerates" - artists whose works were avant garde, or otherwise failed to meet National Socialist arts policies. Of course, he did this for the wrong reasons, wanting to ridicule and ruin talented artists' careers. No one was more enraged than he when his plan backfired and the public flocked to Degenerate exhibitions.
Date and Place of Death:
April 30, 1945, Berlin (Committed suicide in an underground bunker of the chancellery building.)
Art Quotes From Adolph Hitler:
- All my life I have wanted to be a great painter in oils ... As soon as I have carried out my program for Germany, I shall take up painting. I feel that I have it in my soul to become one of the great artists of the age and that future historians will remember me not for what I have done for Germany, but for my art.
- As for the degenerate artists, I forbid them to force their so-called experiences upon the public. If they do see fields blue, they are deranged, and should go to an asylum. If they only pretend to see them blue, they are criminals, and should go to prison. I will purge the nation of them.
- My pictures, in the collections which I have bought in the course of years, have never been collected for private purposes, but only for the extension of a gallery in my home town of Linz on Donau. - from Hitler's Last Will and Testament dated April 29, 1945.
Sources and Further Reading
- De Jaeger, Charles. The Linz File: Hitler's Plunder of Europe's Art.
Exeter, England : Webb & Bower, 1981.
- Kühnel, Anita. "Entartete Kunst"
Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, 12 August 2006.
Read a review of Grove Art Online.
- Price, Billy F. Adolf Hitler: The Unknown Artist.
Houston : Billy F. Price Publishing, 1984 (English ed.).
Hint: This limited run, long out-of-print book is best borrowed through a library network unless you are willing to pay upwards of $600 (US) for a used copy. (And that's an eBay price, on a lucky bidding day.)
- Roxan, David; Wanstall, Ken. The Rape of Art: The Story of Hitler's Plunder of the Great Masterpieces of Europe.
New York : Coward-McCann, 1965.