Hitler’s Paintings Bring $440,000 At Controversial Auction

Experts consider Hitler’s paintings to be mediocre at best, but that doesn’t mean anonymous bidders won’t pay big money at an auction for them – leaving many in Germany queasy at the thought of profiting from the Nazi leader.

According to the New York Times, there were 14 paintings in a recent auction collection that went for $440,000. The most expensive, a watercolor of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, sold for $113,000 (€100,000) to an unidentified buyer from China. A still-life of some carnations also brought in $82,000. All of the paintings were from 1904 to 1922, when Hitler was still struggling in his first career as an artist.

Although the buyers went unnamed, the Daily Mail reports they were from China, Brazil, the UAE, France and Germany itself.

Experts have frequently called Hitler’s art “mediocre.” The tyrannical leader was even rejected from the Vienna Academy of Art. None of the buyers were specialized Hitler collectors, according to Kathrin Weidler from the German auction house.

“These collectors are not specialized in works by this particular painter but rather have a general interest in high-value art.”

And Hitler’s paintings are becoming increasingly high-value. In 2009, 13 paintings attributed to the German dictator were sold in an auction for just $143,000 – a paltry amount compared to recent sales.

Another sign of the Hitler’s art’s rapid appreciation came last year, when the Weidler auction house sold another painting from the Nazi leader for $161,000 to an unnamed buyer from the Middle East.

Some have criticized the houses for getting big profits for Hitler’s work. Still, everyone has some rationale or set of boundaries for art.

For the government’s part, Hitler’s artwork can only be sold so long as it does not depict any Nazi symbols. The former dictator primarily painted architecture and public spaces, rarely showing humans, which art experts say is another sign of his lack of skill.

Hitler's The Courtyard of the Old Residency in Munich
Hitler’s The Courtyard of the Old Residency in Munich (Wikimedia Commons)

The local government in Bavaria also has a policy of never paying for Hitler’s paintings, but will accept them as donations to take them out of circulation.

As for the auction houses, they justify the sales by saying the paintings represent “historical documents,” according to the Guardian. Last November, one auction house promised to give some of the proceeds from the sale of Hitler’s work to local civic preservation society Altstadtfreunde Nürnberg (Friends of the old city of Nuremberg).

The chairman of that society was shocked and said he had no intention of taking the money.

Despite its increasing value, Hitler’s art has a long way to go before it can compete with the work of certain other World War 2 leaders. According to the Economic Times, Winston Churchill’s painting The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell sold at auction for $2.8 million.

Churchill began his art career late at the age of 40, after his disastrous 1915 Dardanelles campaign during World War I. Painting was one of the British Prime Minister’s ways of relieving stress, along with dramatically flicking his false teeth out of his mouth.

Unlike Hitler, Churchill is considered an “accomplished” painter. His paintings are also sold with pride (and for lots of money), while the Nazi leader’s auctions are steeped in controversy.

[Image Credit: Getty Images]