Paintings by Adolf Hitler


Adolf Hitler was a painter and was deeply interested in art. He produced hundreds of works and sold his paintings and postcards to earn a living during his Vienna years (1908–1913). However, he was not successful. A number of his paintings were recovered after World War II and have sold at auction for tens of thousands of dollars. Others were seized by the U.S. Army and are still held by the U.S. government.

In his autobiography Hitler described how, in his youth, he wanted to become a painter, but his aspirations were ruined because he failed the entrance exam of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Hitler was rejected twice by the institute, once in 1907 and again in 1908; the institute considered that he had more talent in architecture than in painting. One of the instructors, sympathetic to his situation and believing he had some talent, suggested that he apply to Academies School of Architecture, but that would have required returning to secondary school, from which he’d dropped out of, which he was unwilling to do.

Later, when he used to tint and peddle postcards featuring scenes of Vienna, Hitler frequented the artists’ cafes in Munich in the unfulfilled hope that established artists might help him with his ambition to become a painter. According to a conversation before the outbreak of World War II in August 1939, published in the Blue Book (a British almanac), Hitler told British ambassador Nevile Henderson, ‘I am an artist and not a politician. Once the Polish question is settled, I want to end my life as an artist.’

Hitler painted his first self-portrait in 1910 at the age of 21. This painting, along with twelve other paintings by Hitler, was discovered by Company Sergeant Major Willie J. McKenna in 1945 in Essen, Germany. Samuel Morgenstern, an Austrian businessman and a business partner of the young Hitler in his Vienna period, bought many of the young Hitler’s paintings. According to Morgenstern, Hitler came to him for the first time in the beginning of 1910s, either in 1911 or in 1912. When Hitler came to Morgenstern’s glazier store for the first time, he offered Morgenstern three of his paintings. Morgenstern kept a database of his clientele, through which it had been possible to locate the buyers of young Hitler’s paintings. It is found that the majority of the buyers were Jewish. An important client of Morgenstern, a lawyer by the name of Josef Feingold, bought a series of paintings by Hitler depicting old Vienna.

When Hitler served in World War I at the age of 25 in 1914, he carried his paints with him to the front and spent his idle hours painting. The works he painted during this period were among his last before he became a politician. The themes of his wartime painting included farmers’ houses, dressing-station etc. His wartime paintings were contrasted from his previous works by ‘flow and feeling.’ According to the weekly news magazine ‘LIFE,’ which featured Hitler and his paintings in 1936 and 1939, Hitler painted hundreds of works. Some thought Hitler’s painting skill was poor; for example because he did not paint people, the cause of which is speculated by ‘LIFE’ as either his unwillingness or lack of skill. His paintings are preoccupied with architecture such as deserted places, buildings, and farmhouses. During World War II, Hitler used to paint watercolors with war-ruined buildings as a theme. Others, however, concluded he ‘had a modicum of talent.’

According to a report entitled ‘The Water Colours of Hitler: Recovered Art Works: Homage to Rodolfo Siviero,’ prepared by Fratelli Alinari (the world’s oldest photographic firm founded in Florence), Hitler’s water colors prove he was ‘grim’ as a painter. A number of Hitler’s paintings were seized by the U.S. Army at the end of World War II. They were taken to the United States with other captured materials and are still held by the U.S. government, which has declined to allow them to be exhibited. Other paintings were kept by private individuals. In the 2000s, a number of these works began to be sold at auction. In 2009 auction house Mullock’s of Shropshire sold 15 of Hitler’s paintings for a total of $120,000, while Ludlow’s of Shropshire sold 13 works for over €100,000. In a 2012 auction in Slovakia, an individual painting fetched $42,300.

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