November 5, 2013

Fact is, We Can't Get Enough of Hitler

The photos and scholarship surrounding Hitler’s touring the 1938 Nazi Art Exhibition (and every one from 1937 through 1944) isn’t exactly unknown. But that’s the point. Apparently, we can’t get enough of Hitler.

Maybe there’s actually an astrological explanation for the Hitler wave right now. There is the odd synchronicity of the movie coming out about a special WWII military unit tasked with recovering European art from the Nazis …

coinciding with the billion dollar discovery last week of that huge trove of modernist paintings, many of them masterpieces, hidden in the Munich apartment of a man whose father had been a prominent art dealer. (The cover above is from the German magazine, Focus, which broke the story.)

Since the Nazis elevated the female form in their spinning of aesthetics, rest assured that a healthy cross-section of media have illustrated their stories with historical photos of Hitler and Co. admiring paintings and sculptures of nudes. For example, the Daily Mail lead its article with this:

The uncredited photo details a visit Hitler made with Mussolini to a Roman art gallery.

Then, there was all the Hitler-esque buzz from various commercial associations last week. That included this teapot from the JC Penny Michael Graves collection that supposedly channels the Furher.

And Twitter was aflutter with a post from an IT guy about Adolf and iOS7.

I might add that the current “editor’s pick” on the front page of (the original post from January, I believe) also picks up the meme. The post features Hitler pics, made by his photographer, Hugo Jaeger, in living color.

Want more synchronicity?

Don’t let the kitschier stuff and the recycled content obscure this insightful and important post and slideshow at Spiegel a couple weeks back about a new archive that chronicles and catalogs (the vulgarity, triviality and sexism of) contemporary Nazi art from 1937-44. Part of the milestone involves new data about who in the Third Reich, including Hitler, purchased what pieces of art and for how much.

For example, in this photo above from 1938, we can see “The Führer and Commander-in-Chief of the Army” by Conrad Hommel (through the passage, middle of the far wall) that Hitler purchased in 1040 for 25,000 reichsmarks. (Scroll past the first four items in this auction link for the close up.)

Hitler and his Entourage view the Second

Taking a look at this historical photo of Hitler making the Great German Art Exhibition scene in the 1938 edition, it becomes pretty clear that the evil media star delivers less tension than popularly thought.

What’s more suggestive here — the worst human stain to occupy the planet juxtaposed against those painting, sculptures and pristine white walls — is that Hitler, too, is a modern classic, a stellar byproduct of the creative imagination and an endless source of artistic output. Whereas conventional wisdom is to abhor Hitler, especially in an institution of art, today that’s exactly what he has become.

(photo 1: Getty Images. caption: German chancellor Adolf Hitler, (fourth from left), accompanied by Joseph Goebbels, (next to him), at the 1938 Nazi Art Exhibition. photo 2: photo 3: Focus Magazine photo 4: uncredited via Daily 5: photo 6: Hugo Jaeger—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images caption: Adolf Hitler greets the cheering throng at a rally in 7: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte/ Jaeger und Goergen photo 9: Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz caption: Hitler and his Entourage view the Second “Great German Art Exhibition” (July 10, 1938). Every year from 1937 to 1944, the House of German Art in Munich hosted a so-called Great German Art Exhibition to highlight art that embodied the National Social aesthetic and world view. The photograph below shows Hitler, Goebbels (to the left of Hitler) and Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick touring the second “Great German Art Exhibition” prior to its official opening.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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