Bidders shun ‘Hitler’ paintings at Nuremberg auction

Bidders shun ‘Hitler’ paintings at Nuremberg auction

Five paintings attributed to Adolf Hitler have failed to sell at a Nuremberg auction amid anger at the sale of Third Reich memorabilia.

Starting prices of between €19,000 and €45,000 and suspicions about their authenticity were thought to have scared off bidders.

The Weidler auction house said the paintings could be sold at a later date as Nuremberg mayor Ulrich Maly condemned the sale as “in bad taste”.

Among the items that failed to sell were a painting of a mountain lake and a wicker armchair with a swastika presumed to have belonged to Hitler.

The Weidler auction house held the “special” auction in Nuremberg, the site of the Nazi war trials after the Second World War and Hitler’s famous pre-war rallies.

That same auction house sold 14 Hitler paintings in 2015 for almost US$500,000 with auctioneers saying the bidders came from Europe, China and the United Arab Emirates.

Ahead of the auction, around 63 paintings carrying the signature “AH” or “A Hitler” at Weidler were seized on suspicion of being fakes.

The watercolours, drawings and paintings reportedly featured views of Vienna or Nuremberg, female nudes and still lifes. They were being offered by 23 owners.

Twenty-three of the paintings were due to have gone on sale at the weekend.

The sale of Hitler’s mediocre paintings is a regular source of controversy.

In his 20s, Hitler was twice rejected by Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts for his “unfitness for painting”. Hitler stayed in the Austrian capital and studied with private teachers and tried to make a living selling his paintings and postcard sketches.

Art critic Jerry Saltz told NPR: “Physically and spatially dead. Generic academic realism, the equivalent of mediocre exercises in aping good penmanship. He was an adequate draftsman, utterly unimaginative and made the equivalent [of] greeting cards.”

A watercolour of Munich’s old city hall sold for €130,000 in 2014.

“There’s a long tradition of this trade in devotional objects linked to Nazism,” said Stephan Klingen of the Central Institute for Art History in Munich. “Every time there’s a media buzz about it… and the prices they’re bringing in have been rising constantly. Personally, that’s something that quite annoys me.”

Klingen said Hitler was “a moderately ambitious amateur” but his art did not stand out from “hundreds of thousands” of contemporary works, making their authenticity hard to verify.

Vienna State Opera House, Adolf Hitler, 1912. Hitler’s art auctions continue to attract controversy. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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