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.

Artist Turns 5000 Marshmallow Peeps Into a Game of Thrones Dragon

PEEPS® and Vivian Davis
PEEPS® and Vivian Davis

Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its eighth and final season on Sunday, April 14. Instead of worrying about which of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons (if any) will survive to see the end of the series, distract yourself with some playful Peeps art inspired by the creatures.

In 2018, artist Vivian Davis (who's on Instagram as @tutoringart) constructed a Game of Thrones-themed dragon sculpture out of 5000 marshmallow Peeps as part of PEEPshow, an annual Peeps-themed event in Westminster, Maryland. The dragon has her wings outstretched, with a nest of colorful eggs in front of her. It's not quite life-sized, but it is massive—the candy model measures 8.5 feet tall, with a 7-foot wingspan. For comparison, Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth, is 6 feet, 3 inches (or 75 Peeps chicks) tall.

A 'Game of Thrones' dragon made of PEEPS chicks with its wings spread
PEEPS® and Vivian Davis

Easter falls on Sunday, April 21 this year (also the premiere date of Game of Thrones season 8, episode 2) which means that Peeps season is in full swing. For more delicious Peeps content, check out these facts about the cute candy.

Airbnb Is Turning the Louvre’s Pyramid Into a Hotel for One Lucky Winner

Julian Abrams, Airbnb
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

As the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre in Paris tends to get pretty crowded, especially in the area surrounding the Mona Lisa painting—which, spoiler alert, is tiny.

However, one lucky winner and a guest will get the chance to inspect Mona Lisa’s smile up close and personal, without the crowds, while spending a night inside the museum’s famous Pyramid. As AFAR magazine reports, the sweepstakes is sponsored by Airbnb, which has previously arranged overnight stays in Denmark’s LEGO House and Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. (Accommodation on the Great Wall of China was also arranged last year, but was canceled at the request of local authorities.)

Upon checking into the Louvre, guests will receive a personalized tour of the museum led by an art historian. After getting their fill of art, they will enjoy drinks in a lounge area set up in front of the Mona Lisa, all while French music plays on vinyl. They’ll have dinner with Venus de Milo in a temporary dining room, followed by an acoustic concert in Napoleon III’s apartments.

“At the end of this very special evening, the winners will retire to their bedroom under the Pyramid for what promises to be a masterpiece of a sleepover,” Airbnb said in a statement. (They also guarantee that guests won’t be seen through the building's windows, so if privacy is a concern, rest assured.)

The Louvre sleepover will take place on April 30, but the winner will also receive complimentary stays at other Airbnb locations in Paris on April 29 and May 1. Round-trip airfare will be provided, as will all meals and ground transfers in France. To enter, all you have to do is answer one question: “Why would you be the Mona Lisa’s perfect guest?”

Check out more photos of the experience below, and visit Airbnb’s website to enter the contest.

A lounge area by the Mona Lisa
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

Napoleon III’s chambers
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

A dining area next to Venus de Milo
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

[h/t AFAR]

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