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WW2 Art and Paintings

Art, paintings and artists in the Second World War.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: Resources for recovering looted art, Art stolen by Russia, Art by Hitler, Culture, WW2 Photos, Nazi Memorabilia, Collectors, Monument Men, German Militaria: Controversial Sales and Auctions, WWII Stamps, Art looted by Americans.

Why Hitler Stole Art: Monuments Men, Quests for Power, and the Market for Stolen Antiquities
A clue lies in the Nazis` actions at the end of the war. Ominously, art and antiquities were included in Hitler`s Nero Decree, ordering their destruction; if the art would not be seen in the Führermuseum then it would never be seen again. Art is culture manifested, a physical representation of a society`s historical narrative and ideals. Hitler wished to gain legitimacy and prestige through a show of power over the cultures that created these masterpieces. For imperial museums like Louis XIV`s Louvre, the Popes` Vatican Museum, and the British Museum, displaying another`s greatest works in the empire`s capital was the ultimate demonstration of dominance.
(medium.com)

Collection of 1,500 artworks confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s found in Munich
A collection of 1,500 artworks confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s has been found in Munich. The trove is believed to include works by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. Some of the works were declared as degenerate by the Nazis, while others were stolen from or forcibly sold for a pittance by Jewish art collectors. If confirmed, it would be one of the largest recoveries of looted art at one billion euros. The artworks were found by chance in early 2011, when the tax authorities investigated Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of an art dealer in Munich.
(bbc.co.uk)

Hermann Goering`s art collection goes online for the world to examine and identify
Hermann Göring, a demobilized WW1 flying ace and last commander of the famed Von Richthofen Squadron, wore many hats during Hitler`s Thousand-Year Reich: creator of the Reich`s modern Luftwaffe, master of the Four-Year Plan, overseer of the vast Hermann Göring Works, Reich Hunting Master. In the world of culture, however, Göring is remembered as one of the greatest art collectors and art thieves in history. Now the German Historical Museum, the German Federal Archive, and the Federal Agency for Central Services and Open Property Issues (BADV) are placing his vast collection of bought and pilfered artwork online for the world to examine and identify.
(salon.com)

Two more photo albums showing art work looted by Nazis discovered
Among the items U.S. soldiers seized from Hitler`s Bavarian Alps hideaway in the closing days of World War II were albums documenting a forgotten Nazi crime - the massive pillaging of artwork as Wehrmacht marched through Europe. Two of those albums - one filled with photos of works of art, the other with snapshots of furniture - were donated to the U.S. National Archives, which now has custody of 43 albums in a set of what historians believe could be as high as 100. The Nazi agency Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) created the series of albums to document the items seized from across Europe. Of the 43 albums identified so far, 39 were discovered in May 1945 at Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.
(washingtonpost.com)

After years of tracking historian manages to locate 7 paintings, once owned by Hitler, in a convent in the Czech Republic
A collection of 7 paintings that once belonged to Adolf Hitler have been unearthed in a convent in the Czech Republic. The long-lost collection was discovered by historian Jiri Kuchar, tucked away in a convent in the small town of Doskany. Among the works of art is a massive painting entitled Memories of Stalingrad. Depicting wounded German soldiers sheltering in a trench as battle rages around them, the work of art is one of Hitler`s favourites. As the war neared its end Führer ordered the paintings to be hidden in southern Bohemia. Before it disappeared the collection included 16 paintings, which means a further 9 remain undiscovered.
(telegraph.co.uk)

A portrait of composer Frederic Chopin that once hung in Auschwitz has resurfaced 7 decades later
A portrait of composer Frederic Chopin that once hung in Auschwitz has resurfaced at the home of a Polish university professor 7 decades later. Painted in 1943 by Auschwitz prisoner and Polish artist Mieczyslaw Koscielniak, the portrait was one of a series of pictures created as part of a public relations campaign to obscure the treatment of inmates at the World War II-era death camp where Nazis killed some 1.5 million people. The portraits by Koscielniak were thought to have all been destroyed by retreating Nazis ahead of the camp`s liberation by the Red Army in 1945.
(haaretz.com)

New archive of Nazi exhibitions complicates our understanding of Hitler`s art history
Richard Wagner was his favorite composer and Arno Breker his official house sculptor - but Adolf Hitler`s taste in art was surprisingly broad - judging by a vast archive of some 11,000 Nazi-era exhibition installation photos now published online. The "Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung 1937-1944" database lists the Führer as the buyer of some 1313 artworks from the eight grandiose exhibitions put on by the Nazi party before and during the WWII at Munich`s Haus der Kunst. Among the works on which Hitler spent 7 million Reichmarks were a bust of Mussolini`s head, paintings of playful leopards, and Anna Elisabeth Rühl`s sculpture of a donkey.
(artinfo.com)

The Berghof by Erich Mercker - Hitler`s favorite painting which hung in his Bavarian retreat - for sale
For years it hung in Adolf Hitler`s Bavarian retreat, providing a scenic backdrop to the war plans that shaped European history. Now one of Hitler`s favorite paintings, The Berghof by Erich Mercker, is about to go under the hammer. The watercolour shows the construction of the Berghof, Hitler`s personal getaway in the Bavarian Alps. The Berghof was built in 1916 and rented to Hitler in 1928. He then bought the building in 1933 with the proceeds from Mein Kampf, and set about extending it. The painting is marked with the official inventory stamps of the Nazi party to show it was in the Berghof at the time.
(dailymail.co.uk)

Recording Britain by Gill Saunders - A WWII project to document historic buildings under threat from bombing raids
The work of official war artists during the First and Second World Wars is widely known. Paintings from these government-funded schemes are regularly exhibited at the Imperial War Museum. Less familiar is a project called "Recording Britain", which ran 1939-1943. Initiated by Sir Kenneth Clark, director of the National Gallery, it was financed by the Pilgrim Trust, set up by American billionaire Edward Harkness ‘to promote Britain`s future well-being`. Whereas the war artists` remit was to depict the impact of war, "Recording Britain" was about documenting the nation`s landscape and historic buildings, under threat from bombing raids and urban sprawl.
(countrylife.co.uk)

Photo Gallery: Third Reich Art (Photographs from German Art Exhibitions)
Photo Gallery: Third Reich Art - Photographs from German Art Exhibitions.
(spiegel.de)

Holocaust art gallery at Yad Vashem museum can be a lot to take after emotionally draining main exhibits
Most people skip the little art gallery at Israel`s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem because they feel it will be too depressing. After an emotionally draining tour of main exhibits, few have the strength to look at Holocaust Art, which promises only more death and destruction: skeletal shapes emerging from smokestacks and hollowed eyes looking through barbed wire. Yad Vashem boasts 10,000-piece collection of Holocaust art, which grows at the rate of about 300 pieces per year.
(latimes.com)

Berlin gallery displays artworks lost during WWII - and their stories through flak towers and salt mines
A painting of the Florence skyline that hung in Adolf Hitler`s Berlin apartment and was missing for decades is on show in an exhibition of works returned to the collection of the German museum Alte Nationalgalerie. The exhibition focuses on 18 works, telling their journeys through flak towers, salt mines and water-soaked cellars.
(abcnews.go.com)

The Secret of the Sacred Panel: Nazi Art Theft, Conspiracy and the Crown of Thorns by Karl Hammer
In "The Secret of the Sacred Panel" journalist Karl Hammer recounts the story told to him by art historian Tom R. - who traced the Nazi looted art - which focuses on a part of a Van Eyck masterpiece stolen from Ghent Cathedral, which has never been found.
(thesacredpanel.com)

11 sculptures - labeled by the Nazis as degenerate art - found during subway construction and now on show
11 sculptures -- banned by the Nazis for being un-German and believed to have been lost forever -- have been discovered during subway construction work in Berlin and are now on show in Berlin`s Neues Museum. But how did they get there?
(spiegel.de)

Part of the U.S. Army`s art collection - 16,000 pieces - on show at "Art of the American Soldier" -exhibit
It includes works by Norman Rockwell and 4 paintings by Adolf Hitler, but the U.S. Army`s collection of 16,000 works of art consists mostly of paintings and sketches by American soldiers whose jobs were to capture military life on canvas. Now 300 paintings will go on view at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Called "Art of the American Soldier", the exhibit is expected to began a national tour after its debut. The U.S. Army started its art program in the First World War, and during the Second World War, the Army art unit had 23 active duty personnel and 19 civilians.
(travel.usatoday.com)

US museum claims: Jewish art collector sold his paintings voluntarily in Nazi-held Austria in 1939
The First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a Boston museum owns a painting that was sold in Nazi-held Austria - because the statute of limitations (people must file lawsuits within 3 years of being harmed) had expired. Claudia Seger-Thomschitz said that Oskar Kokoschka`s 1913 "Two Nudes" painting was sold under duress in 1939 by one of her ancestors. She claims - and an art commission in Austria agrees - that her relative, Jewish art collector Oskar Reichel whose wife was sent to a concentration camp, was forced to sell the artwork. Boston`s Museum of Fine Arts claims the painting was sold voluntarily.
(dailymail.co.uk)

Guggenheim: Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918–1936
Rising from the ruins of WW1, European art returned to the classical past, seeking order and enduring values. Artists rejected prewar experimentalism and embraced the heroic human figure and rational organization. "Chaos and Classicism" is the first exhibition in the US to focus on the transformation in European culture between the world wars. With 150 works by 80 artists - painting, photography, architecture, film, fashion, etc - this exhibition studies the return to order in its key manifestations: the Parisian avant-garde; the Roman Empire under Benito Mussolini; and the aesthetic of emerging Nazi society.
(artdaily.org)

Collector sues the Hungarian government to return $100 million worth of art
For two decades the heirs of a Jewish collector have been pressing Hungary to return $100 million worth of art, most of which has been hanging in Hungarian museums, where it was left for safekeeping during WW2 or placed after being looted by the Nazis and later returned to Hungary. The requests have been denied, and in 2008 a Hungarian court decided that the government was not required to return the art. Now, in the world`s largest unsettled Holocaust art claim, the heirs of Baron Mor Lipot Herzog have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington calling for the return of the collection.
(nytimes.com)

10 famous pieces of art stolen by the Nazis - with informative background stories
During the Second World War, the Nazis looted European art, and as a result priceless pieces of art were auctioned off at low prices. This has created a major problem in the art community that remains even today. Here is a list of 10 famous pieces of art stolen by the Nazis, with informative and educative background stories. --- Saint Justa and Saint Rufina by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. Painter on the Road to Tarascon by Vincent van Gogh. Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt. Place de la Concorde by Edgar Degas. The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer
(toptenz.net)

Controversial sketch said to show Adolf Hitler playing chess with Vladimir Lenin up for sale
A drawing of Adolf Hitler playing chess against Vladimir Lenin is expected to fetch up to £40,000 at auction. The etching - titled `A chess game: Lenin with Hitler, Vienna 1909` - is said to have been created by Hitler`s Jewish art teacher, Emma Lowenstramm. The two men are thought to have lived minutes from one another in Vienna in the early 1900s. Forensic evidence suggests that signatures on the sketch are those of the Nazi leader and the Russian revolutionary. But experts have disputed the sketch`s authenticity: Hitler looks too old - and Lenin was bald, while the picture shows him to have black hair.
(dailymail.co.uk)

Arnold Bocklin - One of Adolf Hitler`s favorite painters
Arnold Bocklin was a 19th century symbolist Swiss painter whose work influenced and inspired Salvador Dali, Sergi Rachmaninoff, Marcel Duchamp and H. R. Giger. Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler owned 11 of his paintings and cited Bocklin as his favourite painter.
(boingboing.net)

Art looted by Nazis spotted on German Antiques Roadshow
It is the moment that anyone who has watched "Antiques Roadshow" has dreamed of: you present an old painting to experts, who say it is a long lost cultural treasure, worth hundreds of thousands. That`s what happened on tv show "Kunst und Krempel" ("art and junk") which estimates the value of antique items. But a viewer from Munich called the police, because he had recognized the piece of art. It had once been looted by the Nazis - the last known owner was most likely Adolf Hitler - and missing since Hitler`s Munich HQs, the Führerbau, were ransacked in 1945. The show has refused to give any information about the person who brought the painting to the show.
(spiegel.de)

Swiss bank vault, legal battles, Goering`s art dealer - Just getting back Pissarro looted by Gestapo
Gisela Bermann-Fischer waited nearly 70 years to get back a painting by Camille Pissarro seized from her family`s home in Vienna by the Gestapo in 1938. She got back "Le Quai Malaquais, Printemps" after a campaign that pitched her into a battle of lawyers` letters with Bruno Lohse, a Nazi art dealer appointed by Hermann Goering to loot treasures in occupied France. Lohse worked in the art-confiscation unit Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, which seized 22,000 objects in France. All this finally led to a Zurich bank vault - registered to a Liechtenstein trust called Schoenart Anstalt that Lohse controlled - where the picture was stashed in a safe.
(bloomberg.com)

New exhibition shows the Louvre Museum during World War Two   (Article no longer available from the original source)
On the eve of WW2, curators at the Louvre wrapped the museum`s most valuable painting - the "Mona Lisa" - in layers of waterproof paper, boxed it up and moved it to the French rural area for safekeeping. Leonardo da Vinci`s smiling maiden relocated 6 times before she was brought back. Mona Lisa wasn`t alone. A new Louvre exhibition reveals photographs of the museum before, during and after WW2, recording how thousands of pieces of art were taken to safehouses. "The principle was that the artwork had to be gotten away from combat zones," said Guillaume Fonkenell, adding that the pieces weren`t hidden from the occupying Nazi forces.
(latimes.com)

Da Vinci art put in cave in Aberystwyth, Wales, during World War II
Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci on show at the National Library of Wales were previously stored there during the Second World War, researchers have learned. The drawings had been placed there for safety in a specially built secret cave of masterpieces. Within hours of the declaration of war in 1939, collections from many of Britain`s cultural institutions were crated up and sent to Aberystwyth. Among the other masterpieces were the Saxon Chronicles, a large collection of charters including the Magna Carta, a collection of autographs and letters from the kings and queens of England, and autographs and holographs of William Shakespeare.
(bbc.co.uk)

British National galleries to hand back Artworks looted by the Nazis during World War Two
The Tate, the British Museum, and the British Library are all known to have looted items but are prevented by law from giving them back to the households that once owned them. Now the Government has decided to introduce a new law to allow the artworks to be moved. Experts say that there could be several hundred artworks in British galleries and museums that were ransacked from Nazi-occupied countries. Under the current legislation, all national museums and galleries are prevented from disposing of any of their works. They can only offer compensation to the owners, while private museums are able to return artworks.
(telegraph.co.uk)

Jewish Museum in Berlin retraces artwork looted by Nazis during World War II
6 decades after Nazis looted artwork from Jews, an unprecedented Berlin exhibition tells both sides of the case: how property was seized and efforts to have it restored. "Looting and Restitution: Jewish-owned Cultural Artifacts from 1933 to the Present", at the Jewish Museum Berlin, concentrates on 15 different pieces looted from Jewish families. Using photos and WWII-era documents, the show not only sets up the historical context but looks at who benefitted from or played a role in the looting, including at times shady dealings by museums, libraries and art dealers. It also probes efforts after 1945 to restore the works to their owners.
(afp)

John Heartfield, artist who dared to mock Nazis, gets rare exhibit at Akron Art Museum
Many persons looked the other way as Germany moved toward war and genocide under the Nazis. Not John Heartfield. The German-born artist was aware of what was happening and realized where it would lead. 1930-1938 he lampooned the rise of the Third Reich in 237 satirical photomontages printed in the Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ), the Workers Illustrated Newspaper. He printed a rogue`s gallery of Nazi henchmen and depicted Adolf Hitler diversely as a puppet of greedy industrialists, a dictator who wrapped Germany in chains and a pathological narcissist who would end up dead, strangled by a skeleton.
(cleveland.com)

Adolf Hitler`s private art collection (the legendary Linz Collection) goes online
The German Historical Museum in Berlin has put the Linz Collection (Adolf Hitler`s private collection of art which was displayed in Linz and stashed in salt mines at the end of World War II) online - not for casual viewing but to track the provenance of some pieces. The Führer`s taste ran to bucolic idylls and precious German Romanticism. He dismissed "degenerate" art by realistic or socially biting artists. He wanted to use the art - 4,731 pieces - as the seed of a "Führermuseum," which he hoped to construct in Linz by 1950. To support the museum he set up the Sonderauftrag Linz foundation ("Special Project: Linz") - funded by proceeds from Mein Kampf.
(spiegel.de)

Nazi-looted artworks, owners unknown, go on show in Paris
Looting art in wartime was not invented by the Nazis - Yet they were infamous for it. Adolf Hitler wanted artwork for his project, the biggest museum in the world, to be built in Linz. Occupied France was hit hardest (60,000 works, of which 45,000 were returned to their rightful owners after the war): The looting started immediately after the Wehrmacht had secured the northern half of France. In the fall of 1940, Hitler set up the Einsatzstelle Reichsleiter Rosenberg to deprive Jewish art dealers and collectors in France. In 1942 Alfred Rosenberg, the chief ideologue of the Nazi party, opened a second branch, the Dienststelle West, to explore empty apartments.
(victoriatimescolonist)

The city of Linz hides Aphrodite statue given by Adolf Hitler
The city of Linz has removed a bronze statue of Aphrodite from a park after discovering that it was a present from Adolf Hitler. Authorities checked the origins of the statue after someone left a note on it stating that the statue was a gift from the Nazi leader. Research showed that the claim was correct and the statue was put in storage. "By removing the statue, the city of Linz is continuing a consistent practice of coming to terms with the Nazi past." The statue had been mounted on a pedestal in a pavilion in a Linz park since 1942, when Austria was part of Third Reich. Hitler was born in the small town of Braunau not far from Linz.
(reuters.com)

Israel Museum returns 1700-year-old gold medallions looted by Nazis
The Israel Museum has returned to a Polish noble family three 1,700-year-old Roman gold medallions looted by the Nazis. The medallions, marked with imagery of the Holy Ark, the Lions of Judah and the Menora, were acquired in Vienna in 1965 by museum founder Teddy Kollek. Recently it became known that all 3 medallions were part of a collection of antique items that Countess Isabella Dzialynska kept at her castle in Goluchow, Poland. Files of the Commission for Looted Art show that the Nazis seized the items in Warsaw in 1941. And they were moved on Adolf Hitler`s orders to an Austrian castle in 1944, where they were looted by locals in the aftermath of the war.
(jpost.com)

Struggle to save the forgotten faces of Scotland`s war before neglect claims victory
Who was she, this glamorous WAAF with the big hazel eyes? She is one of 3 female faces painted on the wall of the officer`s mess at Castletown airfield during WWII. For 70 years, long after the men and women of No13 Group Fighter Command who protected Scapa Flow have grown old, the WAAFs have lasted. The paintings are part of a survey of wartime graffiti collected by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). The treasure trove of memorabilia recording the human side of WWII in Scotland is accessible, online or in person at the RCAHMS headquarters in Edinburgh.
(timesonline)

Georges Seurat sketch thought to be stolen by Nazis seized from Paris art dealer
A long-lost sketch for one of the most famous French paintings of the late 19th century has been seized from an art dealer in Paris. The preliminary study by the pointillist artist Georges Seurat, was reported to have been looted by the Nazis. Investigators searching for looted art want to know why the painting, worth 5m euros, has turned up in the hands of a French art dealer. It belonged to the painter Paul Signac, and in 1940 his widow Berthe Signac gave it to an art dealer André Metthey for guarding after Nazi Germany invaded France. In 1945 the Signac family attempted to recover the painting, but M. Metthey said it had been taken by the Nazis.
(independent)

Charles Wheeler follows the trail of World War II`s looted art - Podcast
With the assistance of Anne Webber, from the Commission for Looted Art, Charles Wheeler traces the theft by the Nazis of millions of paintings, book and tapestries - and the removal of that same treasure to Russia by Stalin`s trophy brigades at the end of the war. Many of these works are still thought hidden inside secret repositories - but as he finds out in Moscow and St Petersburg, a fierce and hysterical defence of the past and an anti-German rhetoric seldom heard these days, still keeps the truth from being told. Will these valuable items remain as Europe`s last prisoners of war.
(bbc)

Thousands of Nazi-Looted Works held by Museums
Museums are hoarding thousands of artworks seized by the Nazis and doing too little, especially in Germany, to trace the prewar owners or their heirs, the authors of a handbook on art restitution say. During Adolf Hitler`s 12-year rule, 650,000 works were plundered in the biggest art heist ever. Before World War II, Jewish art lovers were behind some of the greatest private collections. Hitler appointed a commission to hunt down old masters for a planned museum in his home town of Linz, while Hermann Goering scoured Europe to expand the private collection he kept at his country estate. The Gestapo ransacked places for "degenerate" modern artworks.
(bloomberg)

Exhibit of Adolf Hitler`s favourite sculpture shocks Germans
Enormous statues that Adolf Hitler once adored are to be put on display in Germany for the first time since World War II. The monolithic statues by sculptor Arno Breker are part of the artist`s works at a museum in Schwerin. The artist never denied that he was a frequent guest of Hitler, having later said: "Hitler liked to surround himself with artists since he fancied himself an artist as well." "Hitler took me aback during the tour [of Paris] by telling me straight out that he had come close to sending me to a concentration camp in 1934 because of anti-Nazi sentiments, but that he had decided to be magnanimous in the interests of Germanic art."
(taipeitimes)

Nazi ghosts haunting - Germany`s tangled history in a painting
Painting, Tante Marianne, is expected to reach £2 million in auction, partially because it encapsulates Germany’s tangled history. Gerhard Richter painted his aunt in 1965, knowing that she had died terribly but without being aware of the details. He learned she was locked up in a psychiatric ward, forcibly sterilised and by 1945 starved to death by Nazi doctors, and -- His father-in-law was the SS doctor responsible for implementing the nazi euthanasia programme. Painter had been in Dresden when it was bombed by the Allies in 1945 and war themes had always been part of his repertoire: a picture of Hitler, of Stuka bombers, of his uncle in uniform.
(timesonline)

Art treasures and the Gestapo - The casket and the Nazis
For 25 years, this exquisitely enamelled medieval casket had been on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The casket was designed to hold the relics of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury famously murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. Until one day Metropolitan police from the art and antiques squad arrived at the V&A Museum and seized it. This action was prompted by a claim submitted by an aristocratic Polish family, the Czartoryskis, to the British Spoliation Advisory Panel, which is an independent body set up to help resolve cases involving cultural property lost - stolen or seized - during the Nazi era and later acquired by British museums.
(independent)

Dutch return 267 artworks stolen by Nazis
The Dutch cabinet has shocked museum directors by agreeing to hand over a multi-million-pound art collection stolen by the Nazis in 1940 to the family of its original owners. Some 267 paintings will be returned to the family of the Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker. They include works by the Dutch masters Rembrandt, Steen, Van Goyen, Ruysdael and Van Dyck. Goudstikker was the biggest art dealer in the Netherlands. He fled with his wife and son at the start of the WW2, leaving behind an estimated 1,300 works. About 800 were seized by Field Marshal Hermann Goering and 300 were returned to the government after the war.
(telegraph.co.uk)

The Mystery of Hitler`s Lost Art Collection
Art experts have long been fascinated with the story of Adolf Hitler`s dream of creating a huge museum in the Austrian city of Linz. Book "The Brown House of Art" by historian Hanns Christian Löhr looks at where the Nazi leader`s collection came from - and where it went.
(Deutsche Welle)


See also:
Resources for recovering looted art
Art stolen by Russia
Art by Hitler
Culture
WW2 Photos
Nazi Memorabilia
Collectors
Monument Men
German Militaria: Controversial Sales and Auctions
WWII Stamps
Art looted by Americans.