How Hitler's Watercolor Paintings Ended Up at a Military Base in Virginia

Art Curator Sarah Forgey shows Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal four watercolors by Adolf Hitler at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Art Curator Sarah Forgey shows Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal four watercolors by Adolf Hitler at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller, Defense Visual Information Distribution Service // Public Domain

During World War II, the U.S. military launched a full-scale effort to find and save pieces of European art stolen by the Nazis. The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program—better known as the "Monuments Men"—would eventually liberate Rembrandt's Night Watch, parts of Hubert and Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, and Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. While a 2014 film by George Clooney helped popularize the organization's efforts, and it was recently announced that a modern version of the "Monuments Men" is being established (and is recruiting), less is known about the group's initiative to seize art made by the Nazis—including works by Adolf Hitler himself.

As an artist, Hitler is usually framed as a failure: He was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and spent his early twenties making postcards and street art. But he never really let art go. When he later entered politics, he came in with an understanding of art's emotional potential as a propaganda tool.

"As its leader, Hitler ordered the creation of a corps of artists to document the country's military exploits," journalist Andrew Beaujon wrote in a fantastic piece for the Washingtonian. "They made field sketches of German troops in action and later turned them into paintings, which were then sold to high-ranking officers and displayed in military-run museums and casinos. Other paintings depicted Hitler as half man, half god, often with medieval overtones."

By the height of World War II, German homes and public spaces were awash in these militaristic paintings and sculptures. But American President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the power of art, too, and in early 1945 he joined Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in pledging to, "remove all Nazi and militarist influences from public office and from the cultural and economic life of the German people."

As many of the Monuments Men were busy saving works of art stolen by the Nazis, one man—Captain Gordon W. Gilkey, of the military's Office of the Chief Historian—was busy stealing works of art made by the Nazis. As part of the Allied Denazification program, Gilkey and his crew seized nearly 9000 pieces of propagandist artworks considered too controversial for public consumption, including four watercolors painted by Hitler himself.

Eventually, this trove would be tucked away under lock and key at the Museum Support Center at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia. While the most inoffensive artworks were repatriated to Germany over the ensuing decades, the U.S. military still possesses nearly 600 of the most flagrant Nazi works of art.

Overseen by the Center of Military History, the artworks in Virginia include a painting of Hitler fashioned as a medieval knight (with a bayonet hole through his head), a bust of the Führer (scuffed with American boot marks), and, of course, those four watercolor paintings.

In 2020, the U.S Army plans to open the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir. Whether the 185,000 square-foot museum will exhibit any of these controversial works—or whether they will remain buried in the shadows of the fort's archives—remains to be seen.

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

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Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40)

- Keurig K-Cafe Special Edition; $190 (save $30)

- Ninja OS301 Foodi 10-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer; $125 (save $75)

- Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville; $120 (save $60)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75)

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

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- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10)

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $16 (save $11)

- HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

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- Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

- Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30)

Video games

Sony

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- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening; $40 (save $20)

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- Marvel's Avengers; $25 (save $33)

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- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

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- The Sims 4; $24 (save $20)

- God of Warfor PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

- Days Gonefor PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

- Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

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- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

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Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

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- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

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- DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Headphones and speakers

Beats/Amazon

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Movies and TV

HBO/Amazon

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Toys and Games

Amazon

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Furniture

Casper/Amazon

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Beauty

Haus/Amazon

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Clothes

Ganni/Amazon

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- The Drop Women's Maya Silky Slip Skirt; $36 (save $9)

- Steve Madden Women's Editor Boot; $80 (save $30)

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New Online Art Exhibition Needs the Public’s Help to Track Down Lost Masterpieces by Van Gogh, Monet, and More

Vincent van Gogh's original Portrait of Dr. Gachet wasn't stolen, but it hasn't been seen in 30 years.
Vincent van Gogh's original Portrait of Dr. Gachet wasn't stolen, but it hasn't been seen in 30 years.
Vincent van Gogh, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

If you wanted to compare both versions of Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet in person, you couldn’t. While the second one currently hangs in Paris’s Musée d'Orsay, the public hasn’t seen the original painting since 1990. In fact, nobody’s really sure where it is—after its owner Ryoei Saito died in 1996, the precious item passed from private collector to private collector, but the identity of its current owner is shrouded in mystery.

As Smithsonian Magazine reports, Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890) is one of a dozen paintings in “Missing Masterpieces,” a digital exhibit of some of the world’s most famous lost artworks. It’s not the only Van Gogh in the collection. His 1884 painting The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was snatched from the Netherlands’ Singer Laren museum earlier this year; and his 1888 painting The Painter on His Way to Work has been missing since World War II. Other works include View of Auvers-sur-Oise by Paul Cézanne, William Blake’s Last Judgement, and two bridge paintings by Claude Monet.

Paul Cézanne's View of Auvers-sur-Oise was stolen from the University of Oxford's art museum on New Year's Eve in 1999.Ashmolean Museum, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The new online exhibit is a collaboration between Samsung and art crime expert Noah Charney, who founded The Association for Research into Crimes Against Art. It isn’t just a page where art enthusiasts can explore the stories behind the missing works—it’s also a way to encourage people to come forward with information that could lead to the recovery of the works themselves.

“From contradictory media reports to speculation in Reddit feeds—the clues are out there, but the volume of information can be overwhelming,” Charney said in a press release. “This is where technology and social media can help by bringing people together to assist the search. It’s not unheard of for an innocuous tip posted online to be the key that unlocks a case.”

The exhibition will be online through February 10, 2021, and citizen sleuths can email their tips to missingmasterpieces@artcrimeresearch.org.

[h/t Smithsonian Magazine]