Ugly truth 117

Adolf Hitler wanted to to be an artist and believed he had the necessary talent.

In his book Hitler, the historian Norman Stone contradicts some assumptions about the young Adolf that were and still are widely held:

Hitler  inherited enough capital [from his father] to keep him roughly at the level of a junior schoolteacher, and he did not have to starve – on the contrary, as he grew up, he became a fussy dresser, and indulged his taste for opera. He could pay for his own  studies, and he made for the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, hoping to study architecture. The academy thought quite highly of him but competition for places was severe and he was twice rejected in 1907 and 1908.

Actually, Stone gets one thing wrong there. Hitler’s “test drawing” in 1907 was “unsatisfactory”, according to Academy records. And in 1908 his submissions did not even qualify him to take the entrance examination.

But he did make some extra money by selling his paintings to tourists.

Norman Stone writes:

Contrary to legends that he later propagated, he was never crushed by poverty, forced to live in a home for tramps, or become a house painter.

During the Second World War it was commonly believed in the allied countries that Hitler had been a house painter. (Hannah Arendt says so in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, perhaps because she really believed it, or perhaps because she wanted to believe it. It was an occupation that intellectuals naturally scorned. It would have been unthinkable to her that Hitler was a painter in the sense of being an artist – even a poor one.) Among intellectuals, art was then, as it is now, held in high esteem, and the calling of the artist was to them as near to being sacred as anything on earth could be. It was a view that Hitler shared.

To what extent his failure to become a renowned artist contributed to his becoming a monster, recognized universally as the personification and archetype of evil, nobody of course can know, though many theorize about it. The fact remains that the revolutionary national-socialist genocidal mass-murderer and destroyer of Europe, Adolf Hitler, was an art-loving bohemian, animal-loving vegetarian, and passionate admirer of Wagner’s death-loving operas. (“Death-loving”? See our post The cultivation of evil the sickness of Europe, July 20, 2010.)

Aesthetics should never be confused with ethics. Nor is strong feeling in itself a moral good. Beauty is not truth, nor truth beauty. And often what is true is extremely ugly.


Post Script: The paintings in our post below are by (in descending order):-

  1. Hitler
  2. Hitler
  3. Hitler
  4. Churchill
  5. Hitler
  6. Churchill
  7. Churchill
  8. Churchill
  9. Hitler

Posted under Art, nazism by Jillian Becker on Thursday, August 5, 2010

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