Michael Glover: The gutless, tepid daubs of a slave to tradition

Critic's view
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The Independent Online

Hitler's watercolours – the inert works of a relatively talentless painter who was expelled from art school and later wreaked his vengeance upon the world – have been on view more than once in the past year or so.

In the summer of 2008, in a rather sadly predictable and entirely shameless gesture of self-publicity, the Chapman brothers bought a batch, over-painted them with silly rainbows and witches on broomsticks and put them on display at the White Cube alongside their giant tableau of Hell.

And it is the same with this rather tepid handful of works in watercolour which will shortly go on auction in Nuremberg.

They are so tame, these works – almost gutlessly under-energised. And that itself is interesting, of course. The works themselves give us no inkling that a madman would emerge in the end. There are no fuming Aryan gods here, no sense that there are pent forces in the wings waiting to explode. They don't have that kind of energy.

They are poor daubs of the kind that any adolescent painter of limited technical means, and even more limited artistic vision, might have done – enslaved to tradition, wooden, rule-bound, from first to last.

They show us bland rural scenes that any Sunday painter from Bavaria might have been drawn to at any moment over a period of several hundred years: a schloss in the sunlight, a country church, a farm building beside a river.

There is no sense that they were made at a particular historical moment, that revolutions and wars were engulfing the world.

They seem to have been painted by a man with tunnel vision, and without any sense that he was living in a world whose art, too, was in a state of revolutionary ferment.

It is Kandinsky who looks like the madman, not sad, artistically craven, toe-sucking Adolf.