Art appreciation is complicated enough. Bring politics into it and… things get really confused and messy.
Could you look at art and appreciate it for the sake of itself? How would your perception change knowing the artist was someone famous, notorious even? How does your art appreciation fare knowing the artist was Hitler?
Of course, that brings up the question – Who is Hitler to you, personally? Were you born before his death? Is your family German, Austrian, Jewish or European at all? What real relevance is there about Hitler for you in a personal way? Is there anything real enough to change the way you look at the art he created at various times in his life?
I admit, other than reading history, Hitler has very little connection to my life. My family are Austrian but I hardly know anyone from that connection and I’ve never travelled to Europe at all, so far. I can remember my Grandmother (on my Father’s side) ranting about “never letting a German into her house”. This was a little shocking to me considering I thought of myself as German (on my Mother’s side of the family). I never forgot her saying that and the conviction she had, or how misled she seemed to me in that moment.
Hitler was an artist, as are/ were many other people who didn’t stand out in history. What matters in art? How much does it matter that the artist was a German politician and later a famous dictator? Is art about politics? Do you still believe in the connection between politics and religion too?
Some questions don’t have easy answers. However, I would not like to see Hitler’s original art defaced or destroyed. It’s part of our history, our culture and something one man left behind of the beauty he found in the world.