Case Study    
           
           
  "Portrait of Adolf Hitler"
by Heinrich Knirr
 
           
           
    1938    
           
 
Heinrich Knirr "Portrait of Adolf Hitler" 1938
H. 87 3/4" X W. 57 1/4" Signed and Dated Lower Left
 
           
           
    1939    
           
 
Heinrich Knirr "Portrait of Adolf Hitler" 1939
H. 61" X W. 47 1/2" Signed and Dated Lower Left
 
           
In this 1939 portrait Knirr offers a 3/4-length version of the 1938 painting.(30) While the palette is warmer and the coat has been removed, the pose and drawing are identical. Even the landscape is virtually identical. Amusingly Knirr has raised the horizon line and landscape in order to anchor the figure against a "believable" backdrop. The composition thus becomes a stage setting suitable for alteration as necessary and the paintings become clones created from the same parent. Knirr's history suggests a Hoffmann photo original.
           

1938 Version
 
1939 Version

1938 Version

1939 Version
           
           
    Breakthrough    
           
Heinrich Hoffmann took over two-and-a-half million pictures in his career.(31) Many have never been published. How do you find one particular image that may not have survived the war? Inquiries were sent to numerous sources and scholars. On September 20th, 2004 the people at thirdreich.ca made the breakthrough. They saw an Internet auction site for the book Das Deutschland Adolf Hitlers - Die Ersten vier Jahre des Deutschen Reiches, The Germany of Adolf Hitler - the First Four Years of the German Reich.(32) The 128-page book contains numerous photos including thirty-four by Hoffmann, the most imaged photographer in the book. Incredibly the front cover of the book portrayed the "parent" photo for the two Knirr portraits. The book was purchased by thirdreich.ca and forwarded to me for examination. A second copy of the text produced a slightly different state of preservation and value system of the cover image.(32) Both of these versions are reproduced below. For comparative purposes a half-length black and white image of the treated 1938 portrait is pictured.
           

Das Deutschland
Version 1

1/2 Length B&W
1938 Portrait

Das Deutschland
Version 2
           
There is the question that the image on the book is merely a photo of the painting and not a separate photograph by Hoffmann. On closer examination of the details it becomes apparent the two images are different. The most obvious is the right horizon line where the photo contains a blurred image of a tree or house while in the painting it has been removed. The highlight on the chest strap has been softened in the painting. In the details below it can be seen that the finger partially covers the pocket button in the photo while Knirr's finger exposes the button. The dark shadow on the right side of the pocket flap is larger in the photo than the painting. The highlights under the belt in the same area are different. The fact that such small details have to be microscoped in order to reveal inherent discrepancies shows how dependent Knirr was on Hoffmann's photographic crutch.
           

Das Deutschland
Version 1
Hand and Pocket Flap

B&W Detail
1938 Portrait
Hand and Pocket Flap

Das Deutschland
Version 2
Hand and Pocket Flap
           
           
    In Conclusion    
           
The Nazi regime suppressed innovation and independence. The individual was sublimated within the Folk State. The art of personal spirit was extinguished and the spirit of personal art suffered the same fate. Artistic innovation became illegal and was looked upon as degenerate. Art had to be approved by the State in order to be considered "good art." Hitler gave the final approval for the inclusions in the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung. He even "helped" design the building. Every detail was controlled under his dictatorship and no artistic detail went unnoticed.
           
In this arena Knirr becomes a microcosm of the Reich and a forgotten figure in the history of art. His 1937 "Official Portrait of Hitler" occurred only due to his relationship with Heinrich Hoffmann and not because of the painting's artistic merit. From 1935 to 1939, without a thought of his own, Knirr hid behind Hoffmann's shield. He was a master of the "make believe" sky, the "make believe" landscape, the fantasy flower and the fictitious portrait. He became a formula painter robbed of his creativity in a regime where creativity was a crime. In the end he can only be seen as a tragic soul living in a period where coercion and consent harvested deceit and destruction.(33)
           
           
           
Footnotes        
(30) Image courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Army, Army Art Collection. Washington, D.C.
(31) Number from Hoffmann Ibid. Preface.
(32) Das Deutschland Adolf Hitlers - Die Ersten vier Jahre des Deutschen Reiches. Published by the official NSDAP publishing house, Franz Eher Nachfolger of Munich. 1937. Images reproduced through the courtesy of www.thirdreich.ca and www.usmbooks.com
(33) Backing Hitler, by Robert Gellately is an academic book which delves deeply into the concept of consent and coercion in Nazi Germany. Oxford University Press. 2001.
           
 Table of Contents, Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,  7, 8