Held in the United States Army of Military History are four watercolours by a soldier-artist of the early twentieth century. In the opinion of most art critics these wartime scenes are unexceptional. Historian William Shirer described them as “crude, stilted and lifeless”. Their value lies in the name of the artist in the bottom left hand corner: “A Hitler.”

Adolf Hitler’s name is synonymous with evil and brutality. Yet most people are unaware that before he became a dictator who menaced the world Adolf Hitler made his living selling his own paintings. When he was 18 years old Hitler even applied for admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. He dreamed of becoming a great painter, but despite a flair for drawing, failed the entry tests.

Marylou Gjernes is the former curator of the US Army Art Collection. Reflecting on Hitler’s artworks she says, “It’s a side of him that no-one expects. You don’t expect to see an artist. It’s very incongruous and, in a way, it’s frightening. If someone who can perpetrate such evil can also have this softer side, then who’s to say that possibly isn’t in all of us?”

 

Source: Reported in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine June 1, 2002

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