Monday, March 18, 2013

Hitler and the Louvre…My Favorite Art History Story.

I have always enjoyed my art history classes in college because you always learn something new that you never knew before.  I have also enjoyed world history classes too because world history and art history work together on the same timeline throughout history.
During my world history classes, I spent a lot of time researching World War II and Hitler due to the assignments given during class or personal research I conducted on my own.  Adolf Hitler as you know was a dictator of Germany during World War II (1939-1945) and was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews and other nationalities that came to be known as the holocaust.  This tyrant dictator was a cruel and evil man, and was not only a dictator; he was also a painter/artist.
Hitler, as a painter was not appreciated for his paintings. His skills were not impressive to the art world. Hitler wanted to become a famous painter and tried to get his paintings sold or put into museums but, he was never taken seriously for his art work. In 1937, Hitler enforced the Nazi Reich to collect paintings during the invasions of Europe to be displayed in Germany to the public for the German people to view the “Perverse Jewish spirit” before invading other cities throughout Germany and Austria. These collections of paintings, sculpture, print, etc... Were called “Degenerate” Exhibits. One of my favorite Artists Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was one of them; expressionist painter, along with James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh to name a few. Even though, some of the art work was collected for Hitler’s personal viewing, he continued to have these exhibits viewed as degenerate pieces of art to the people of Germany.
Now, to get on with my favorite art history story, Hitler wanted to invade France for many reasons but, one of them was to raid the Louvre in Paris, France for the art work that was displayed there. Before the invasion of France, the curator of the Louvre heard that Hitler had an infatuation with seizing art work to be destroyed or displayed of degenerate art work. Therefore, the curator asked the people of Paris to come to the Louvre and remove all art works from the museum and to hide them in places that would be kept in secret so, that Hitler would  not take France’s art history from them or removing the prized possessions of the Louvre. Many famous paintings were displayed at the Louvre; Mona Lisa by da Vinci, and the Raft of the Medusa by Gericault, just to name a few.  Many famous artists had paintings or art work at the Louvre including; Raphael, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Michael Angelo and Renoir. So, you can imagine Hitler’s desperate wanting or destroying these wonderful pieces of art work for his own amusement or to satisfy his power hungriness.  The people of France came to the Louvre and removed all the art from the Louvre on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of Paris. The people were told by the curator to not tell him where they would hide these artifacts because he would die first before telling the Nazi Regime where the art work was hidden.  
As the story goes, or as I was told in one of my college courses, once Hitler entered Paris, the Louvre was one of the first places he wanted to invade. Hitler liked everything to be documented or filmed during WWII including the killings of millions of Jews, the bombings, and the medical experiments that were performed on the prisoners.  So, when they arrived at the Louvre, it was filmed and documented.  I have never seen the film of it but, the story is documented. Upon arrival, Hitler opened the doors of the Louvre, to only be disappointed because it was EMPTY!! All of its art work was GONE!! I researched and found that he was very upset when he saw this and that he even killed one or two of his men for not knowing this would happen and even stopped the filming of his findings of the Louvre that he found was empty. 
Here’s the good part!!! Years after the war, the curator asked the people that came and hide the art work to bring them back to its home at the Louvre. Astonishing, to the curator and the people of Paris, every piece of art work that was taken out of the Louvre was RETURNED-undamaged!!! Not one was sold, damaged, or kept hidden; all of it was returned. Amazing!  A great triumph of patriotism in the country of France and to show the world that art is important to keep for the generations to come and visit these wonderful pieces of art that is part of our history. We thank you!
I hope you enjoyed this story. It’s one of my favorites!!

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