1938

All over Europe, artists were on the run. Beckman left for the Netherlands the day after Hitler’s speech at the Haus der deutschen Kunst. He would spend the next ten years in Amsterdam, trying to get a visa for the United States. Kokoschka was in Prague, where he painted Self-Portrait of a Degenerate Artist, his response to Entartete Kunst, which showed him sitting with arms folded while a man and a deer lurked in the forest behind him: the artist as fugitive. Ernst remained in Paris, where he would later be picked up by the Gestapo before fleeing to America with the help of Peggy Guggenheim. Klee and Kirchner were in Switzerland, where Klee produced hundreds of pieces that dealt with his fate. Kirchner, depressed and fearful that German soldiers would eventually come for him, shot himself dead in the summer of 1938.

Those German modernists who hadn’t fled lived in a state of internal exile, working little or furtively, in some cases under surveillance.

The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, p. 152

Am picking up the pace. When Hitler starts his meteoric rise in politics, he becomes much, much less interesting.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day, 3rd Thursday of September 2021

At the heart of Hitler’s worldview “lay a doctrine of victimhood and racial despair: Everything that had once been noble, glorious, and pure was threatened by genetic degradation and Jewish pollution.” (p. 76, The Gallery of Miracles and Madness)

Reading that passage gave self chills. She hears the same sense of victimhood today, in 45’s followers.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Alas, Young Adolf

If that doesn’t just take the cake. Hitler, a very gauche bumpkin, moves to Vienna with inflated hopes. The last thing self expected to happen was to actually empathize with his frustration!

In the last post (before this one), a dim assessment of Adolf’s artistic talent was delivered by his (only) friend Gustl Kubizek, who ends up accompanying him to Vienna. Little does Kubizek know that Adolf is harboring a deep, dark secret:

Hitler still harbored the secret of his failed exam and pretended to attend the academy each day, a bizarre situation made worse by Kubizek’s easy acceptance to the Conservatoire to study music.

The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, p. 70

Could Hitler possibly have been driven mad by his rejection by the Academy of Fine Arts (Only 28 of the 113 applicants who took the entrance exam with Hitler were accepted), his disappointment exacerbated by the death of his beloved mother (and only ally) two months before? When “Hitler launched a tirade,” Kubizek “had to go into bed. He would lie there as Adolf ranted and cried and gesticulated, and if Kubizek fell asleep Hitler would shake him awake to shout at him some more.”

And then, Hitler ghosted him: Kubizek returned to his hometown after the end of term. This Kubizek must have been a very mild fellow, because when he returned to Vienna, he still expected to share the room with Hitler but “he found that Hitler had cleared out, leaving no explanation or forwarding address.”

The next section is about Hitler’s “sexual frustrations” and fear of women. At this point, self thinks Kubizek should be earnestly thankful that he is no longer rooming with Hitler although, poor man, all Kubizek feels at the moment is disappointment and abandonment.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Adolf Hitler, Aspiring Artist

“The rapid catching of an atmosphere, of a certain mood, which is so typical of a water color and which, with its delicate touch, imparts to it freshness and liveliness — this was missing completely in Adolf’s work,” a friend named Kubizek recalled.

The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, p. 67

I suppose you couldn’t really call Kubizek a friend, since in reality Hitler had no friends. But Kubizek did get close enough to be shown examples of Hitler’s art.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Germany, Summer 1924

Self has arrived at Part Two of The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, by Charlie English. It’s been a fascinating read so far. Germany after World War I seems like a decadent place, fertile ground for art movements like the Surrealists. Also, “obscene poetry” recited in cafés!

Alas, things do not continue on this fascinating path. Hitler enters the picture.

In the summer of 1924, Hitler was serving time for his role in a failed insurrection. (So many parallels, I swear!)

In November 1923, he and two thousand Nazi storm troopers had tried to seize control of Munich, the first step in a plan to topple the Weimar Republic. But the Beer Hall Putsch, as the coup attempt would be called, had been a disaster: Sixteen Nazis and four state police officers were killed, and Hitler was caught and charged with high treason. On arrival at Landsberg, raging at the prison psychologist, Alois Maria Ott . . . flecks of spittle showing at his lips, Ott assessed the new inmate as “a morbid psychopath . . . prone to hysteria . . . with an inclination toward a magical mindset . . . Surrounded in jail by forty sycophantic co-conspirators, with piles of expensive gifts sent by admirers and with even guards whispering “Heil Hitler!” in his ear, he became convinced that he was the messiah for the German people, their Fuhrer.

The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, pp. 63 -64

Yes, I am Schizophrenic. I Also Make Art.

Hans Prinzhorn begins his amazing collection, gathered from inmates in mental asylums all over Germany, in the decade immediately following World War I:

Around three-quarters of Prinzhorn’s artist-patients were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The rest shared a range of conditions from “manic-depressive” to “paralytic,” “imbecile,” and “epileptic.” Though more than half of the patients living in German asylums were female, fewer than 20 percent of the works Prinzhorn received were by women, a reflection both of their status in society and of a narrow definition of art, which excluded many traditional female handicrafts. An exception to this trend was Agnes Richter’s jacket. Richter, a Dresden seamstress, had been committed in 1893 after being arrested for disturbing the piece. In the asylum at Hubertusberg, she began work on an institutional garment made of gray linen, re-stitching the arms on backward, and embroidering it all over with expressions of her plight. “I am not big,” read one; others spelled out “my jacket,” “I am,” “I have,” “I miss today,” and “you do not have to. Her asylum laundry number, 583, appeared again and again. The writing was mainly stitched to the inside, where it would have lain next to her body — an attempt to reinforce her sense of self, perhaps, in a place where that was easily lost. The jacket was Richter’s only item in the collection.

— p. 23, The Gallery of Miracles and Madness, by Charlie English

If you want to know exactly what this jacket looked like, author @CharlieEnglish1 (the author himself) tweeted a picture of it on Sept. 10.

43 at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 11 Septemer 2021

As a nation, our adjustments have been profound.

In the weeks after 9/11, I was proud to lead a united, resilient people. So much of our politics has become an . . . appeal to worry, anger, and resentment. I can only tell you that on our day of trial and grief, I saw people reach for their neighbor’s hands and rally to the cause of one another. That is the America I know.

I saw people reject prejudice, and accept people of the Muslim faith. That is the America I know.

This is not mere nostalgia. this is the truest version of ourselves. This is what we have been, and what we can be again.

On 9/11, the terrorists discovered that a random group of Americans is a remarkable group of people . . . They shocked the terrorists. This is the America I know.

Self found it significant that in his speech, 43 mentioned that we “have seen evidence that” we continue to see terrorism today, but on a new front, at home: “In their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit, and they must be confronted.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

How Iceland Changed the World, pp. 139 – 140

Self is going deliciously slowly with this book. She does not know how the author does it. He’s managed to inject surprise, page after page. Nothing is inevitable, as those quirky Icelanders keep demonstrating. Bravo for nimble literary work, Author Egill Bjarnason!

World War II:

The Allies — Britain and France — had been ousted from Europe, and the Nazis occupied the entire coastline from Spain to Norwway. The only thing standing in the way of a Nazi invasion of the UK were twenty-one nautical miles, the width of the English Channel at its narrowest point. Knowing the German Kriegsmarine could not get past the Royal Navy, Hitler decided to use his sea forces strategically. Instead of attacking Britain directly, the plan was to strangle its cargo routes, depriving the island nation of everything from food and clothing to oil and iron.

Control of Iceland would help. Hitler — a villain who spent his political career yelling so much that he needed polyps removed from his vocal cords, twice — ordered his generals to put together a plan to snatch the foreign port.

Sentence of the Day, 2nd to Last Sunday of August 2021

At sea, when every day is an endless set of twists and risks, two months is a long time.

How Iceland Changed the World, by Egill Bjarnason, Introduction

Bjarnason is a very beguiling storyteller.

Favorite Reads, So Far 2021

The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal (science fiction)

High as the Waters Rise, by Anja Kampmann (first novel)

Ice Walker: A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic, by James Raffan (environment)

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (environment)

Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg, 1943, by Keith Lowe (WWII history)

The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman (mystery)

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