Politicians who paint

Adolf Hitler

You read correctly – Adolph Hitler was a painter. After writing a blog about Winston Churchill’s mastery of painting, I was curious to know if other politicians painted too. I was floored to learn Hitler had an early start as an amateur artist.

That career never evolved, of course. Presumably this was because he was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

Nevertheless, he painted hundreds of paintings and postcards. If I understand correctly, he sold a number of paintings to a store owner by the name of Samuel Morgenstern. Morgenstern, in turn, sold the paintings and kept a database of the clients who bought them – most were Jewish!

In doing the research, I found a thread on Quora that asks if Hitler’s art is good. There are a lot of interesting comments. My favorite is, “His art is curiously and unsettlingly powerless.”

Jimmy Carter

On the other end of the spectrum – Jimmy Carter, the much-loved former President and philanthropist, is a painter too. He took it up after leaving the White House.

He has no grand illusions with regard to his talent which is essentially “adept”. However, his paintings sell for thousands.

Live Oak at Sunrise, featured here, sold for $250,000. Profits from sales of his work go to the Carter Center, which works towards the alleviation of homelessness, hunger, and disease.

By the way, in researching his art, I also discovered he wrote poetry. Here’s an excerpt of one he wrote about his wife. I love it:

She’d smile,
and birds would feel that they no longer had to sing,
or it maybe I failed to hear their song.

Didn’t think I could love him more.

George Bush

Bush too took up oil painting after his time in the White House. Apparently, he was inspired by Churchill’s essay on painting as a pastime.

He was discovered as an artist in the most new-fashioned way – he was hacked and some of his paintings were made public.

He’s since published, called “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors”, which showcases his paintings of world leaders. The proceeds go to a non-profit that helps veterans and their families.

A bit about Picasso’s collages.

I mentioned the influence Braque had on collage in my previous blog. Picasso, who worked closely with Braque, also took it up around the same time. In fact, it’s a tossup in terms of who was first.

What we do know is that using tangible materials to create third dimensions afforded Picasso a great deal of freedom, which he used enthusiastically.

Newspaper cuttings, parts of musical instruments, music score, tobacco boxes, fabrics, metal – he loved to experiment!

Here are three of his famous “pieced together” pieces:

Still Life with Chair Caning – 1912

Though Picasso experimented with materials prior to this piece, it’s considered his first true work of collage fine art.

What’s most creative here is that Picasso used a piece of oilcloth printed with a cane chair pattern, as well as thick textured rope as a frame. In doing so, he creates reality without using the kind of illusionism used throughout art’s history. In fact, it challenges the false sense of reality that traditional artists created.

This was revolutionary at the time.

Three letters above the cloth are torn from the word “journal” which, along with the pipe, glass, lemon, oyster, suggest a café setting.

Guitar, Sheet music and Wine glass – 1912

Here Picasso assembled newspaper, sheet music, colored paper, paper, and hand-painted faux bois paper, charcoal, and gouache over wallpaper on paperboard.

Each piece of paper is one discrete element within the whole. Together, they represent a guitar hanging on a wall. …

You may not see the shape of the guitar immediately because, in fact, it’s been suggested through the use of negative space.

Look at the white circle first. It’s the sound hole. Once you see that, you can perceive the guitar more easily.

Maquette for Guitar – 1912

Picasso’s experiments with collage inspired him to innovate with sculptures as well.
Maquette for Guitar is a three-dimensional collaged sculpture made up of cardboard, paper, string, and wire, which are folded, threaded, and glued together.
Picasso managed to take the Cubist approach of presented a number of perspectives and geometric form into a three-dimensional medium. Plus he did so using non-traditional art materials.
It’s just such a brilliant and complex piece!

By the way, when Braque and Picasso began incorporating industrially-produced objects (“low” commercial culture) into the realm of fine art (“high” culture), it was both revolutionary and excitingly defiant.

A line going for a walk, Paul Klee.

That’s a quote from Paul Klee. Though it’s his description of drawing, it’s actually a perfect account of how he painted.

Highways and Byways

Klee was a Swiss-born painter born in 1879 and died in 1940. He was innovative and experimental, leaving behind a diverse body of work. His style was influenced by Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism, but it always remained highly individual.

He was also fascinated by color and wrote about it extensively. The Paul Klee Notebooks is a collection of his essays on modern art, as well as his lectures at the Bauhaus school where he taught.

Bauhaus, by the way, was a German art school famous for its approach to design, not to mention its faculty – Joseph Albers and Kadinsky among them.

Klee’s work was an inspiration to a number of modern artists, including students of the New York School, which was not so much a school, but a group of influential artists in the 50’s and 60’s.

Klee himself took inspiration from music. He saw analogies between music and visual art, and often played violin as a warm-up to painting.  He was also inspired by children’s drawings because of their unaffected quality and freedom.

Senecio – 1922

A portrait of an old man in the Cubism style, Senecio is a joyful assemblage of simple shapes and deep, warm colors.

It has a childlike quality with its one brow raised and the other in the shape of a triangle. The portrait is also (appropriately) called Head of a Man Going Senile.

Insula Dulcamara – 1938


This is one of Klee’s largest paintings, 34 3/5 × 69 3/10 in. It’s filled with delicate colors in contrast with bold dark symbols and shapes.

Klee used newsprint stretched on jute which he painted with oils and colored paste.

Cat and Bird – 1928

Klee liked to use line, shape, and color for their own sake rather than to portray something visible. In doing so, he was able to create images that had more to do with thought than what was perceived.

This painting is a great example of that.

The bird appears to be flying inside the cat’s mind because, of course, it is on the cat’s mind. Great touch – the cat’s nose has a little heart shape. This implies the cat’s desire!