"Hitler watercolor" goes up for auction on Czech website

03-01-2007

Years before becoming one of the worst mass murderers of all time, Adolf Hitler struggled to make ends meet as an artist. Paradoxically, while the exact whereabouts of the German dictator's remains are uncertain, there is a busy trade today in the paintings he made in the early 1900s, which nobody was interested in buying at the time. Recently a watercolor purported to be by Adolf Hitler went on the auction block on a Czech website.

The picture seems to depict a farmer in a cap and shirtsleeves tending to a small ground fire with a stick. It was painted in watercolor, mostly in shades of brown and tan. In the lower right hand side of the painting, the initials AH.

Not necessarily proof positive that the painting was made by Adolf Hitler, says the Director General of the National Gallery in Prague, Milan Knizak.

"it looks completely different technique as Hitler used, has some kind of more free way of painting....Hitler was more accurate and used brush differently. But maybe it is, maybe he painted when he was very young."

Adolf HitlerAdolf Hitler The only way to prove the painting's authenticity, says Knizak, would be to get an endorsement from an appraiser - something the anonymous seller has not done.

The unnamed painting is on offer for 100,000 crowns, or about 5,000 US dollars, at an online auction site. In a statement given to the newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes, the anonymous seller explained that he had inherited the painting from his grandfather, who co-owned an auction house during the first Czechoslovak Republic.

"All I want to do," he said, "is sell one watercolor in its original frame."

Some observers see the matter as a bit more complicated than that. Profiting from the works of a mass murderer is ethically dubious, says Frantisek Banay, chairman of the Jewish Community in Prague.

"Of course I'm not happy about it. The ethical question is complicated and there is no absolute, general rule. I would say it shouldn't serve any kind of propaganda purposes, and you have to wonder about someone who fetishizes or collects these kinds of things."

Milan Knizak says the matter should not be too troubling, because Hitler's work just wasn't much good anyway.

"It's not art at all, it's a very naive, very childlike, very boring aquarell painting, I am not speaking about this painting, I am speaking about all paintings by Hitler. Hitler's painting, it's not a piece of art, it's a kind of souvenir like pants of Napoleon or guitar of John Lennon."

Nevertheless there is a lively international market for Hitler memorabilia. Last autumn, another non-authenticated Hitler watercolor sold for more than ten thousand British pounds, or a little over twenty thousand US dollars. The auction on the Czech-owned painting closes in two weeks' time.

03-01-2007