Conrad Hommel, The Leader

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‘The Leader’ (‘Der Führer’)
Profile Drawing of Hitler (‘Profielzeignung’) by Conrad Hommel, signed 1941.
As far as we know there are only two profile drawings by Hommel existing; one is in the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History, Washington D.C.

‘The cult of the face of Hitler reached a peak with this drawing’
‘Hitlers face depicted in profile, the mystical lighting from the right side gives it a religious aura’
(
‘Das Bild des Herrschers in Malerei und Grafik des Nationalsozialismus’, Tobias Ronge)

Except for one time with Heinrich Knirr, Hitler did not pose for painters or sculptors. Even the official Court Painters had to use photographs, mostly taken by Heinrich Hoffmann, as the basis for their paintings. Below the Hoffmann photo which Conrad Hommel used for this profile drawing of Hitler.
As far as we know there are only two profile drawings by Hommel existing. The version which was displayed at the Great German Art Exhibition and bought by Hitler, was found back in 1945 in the Altaussee-mine*. It was brought on 29 October 1945 to the Central Collecting Point Munich, and displayed in December 1946 at the German War Art Exhibition in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Nowadays this drawing is in the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History, Washington D.C. 
Left: original photo by Heinrich Hoffmann.
Right: the drawing by Hommel in the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History, Washington D.C. (photo: Photo Archives, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.) 
   

*Conrad Hommel in the Führermuseum
The Führermuseum, or ‘Linz art gallery’, was an unrealized art museum planned by Adolf Hitler for his hometown, the Austrian city of Linz, near his birthplace of Braunau. Its purpose was to display a selection of the art bought, confiscated or stolen by the Nazis from throughout Europe during World War II. The overall plan was to turn Linz into one of the greatest art centers of Europe, overshadowing Vienna.  Hitler personally favored German and Austrian paintings from the 19th century, but the collection also contained many early German, Dutch, French, and Italian paintings. The collection, when it was whole, included 4,731 pieces, not just paintings but also tapestries, sculpture, furniture and porcelain. Beginning in February 1944, the artworks were relocated to the 14th-century Steinberg salt mines above the village of Altaussee, in which the holdings of various Viennese museums had earlier been transferred.

The profile drawing of Hitler by Conrad Hommel was part of the collection of the Führermuseum, which was quite extraordinary, as the collection hardly contained works of contemporary art.

Conrad Hommel, ‘Der Führer’. The other version displayed at the GDK 1941 room 30. Rötelzeichnung (red chalk drawing). Bought by Martin Bormann for 2.500 Reichsmark. In the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History, Washington D.C. 
   

The Führer by Hommel, depicted on the cover of the ‘Illustrierter Beobachter’, April 20, 1942.


‘The cult of the face of Hitler reached a peak with this drawing’
‘Hitlers face depicted in profile, the mystical lighting from the right side gives it a religious aura’
‘Hitlers Titanenhaupt hat auch Conrad Hommel zu einem Bild inspiriert. Im Jahre 1941 malte er eine Nahansicht von Hitlers Gesicht in Profil, das durch seine überlebensgrosse Darstellung und die mystische Beleuchtung von der rechten Bildseite eine religiöse Aura bekommt. Aufgrund der penetranten Nähe von HItlers Gesicht, der in der Realität selten einen Menschen so dicht an sich heran liess, wirkt diese Darstellung auf den Betrachter zugleich faszinierend wie verstörend. Der Betrachter steht vor dem Bild wie vor einem Gebirgsmassiv, das von der aufgehenden Sonne erleuchtet wird. Dabei werden die Höhen und Tiefen dieser Gesichtslandshaft durch Licht und Schatten hart akzentuiert. Der Kult um das Gesicht Hitlers ist mit dieser Darstellung auf die letzte Spitze getrieben.’ From: ‘Das Bild des Herrschers in Malerei und Grafik des Nationalsozialismus’, by Tobias Ronge, page 80.

Left: Central Collecting Point registration photo of Conrad Hommel’s ‘Der Führer’ (the GDK version), spring 1945. Depicted in ‘Nostalgia for the Future’, Gregory Maertz, 2019.
Right: registration card of the Central Collecting Point Munich. Arrival date: 29 October 1945. Exit: 2 October 1946. Destination: the German War Art Exhibition in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. History and Ownership: the Altaussee-mine. 
   

Exhibition of German War Art at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt, 6 December 1946.
At the War Art exhibition in the Städelmuseum, organized by U.S. Army Captain Gordon W. Gilkey, 103 German art works were shown. These 103 works were selected by Gilkey from the art collection he had found in:
– Schloss Ringberg near Tegernsee (works from the Luftgaukommando VI in Münster);
– the Salt plant in Bad Aussee (and St. Agatha, Austria);
– Schloss Oberfrauenau (in basement and in woodcutters hut);
– the Haus der Deutschen Kunst;
– the Führerbau basement;
– the Kelmheim Befreiungshalle (works from the exhibition ‘Deutsche Künstler und die SS’):
– the Reichs Chancellery.

Left: ‘Nach einer Rötelzeichnung von Prof. Conrad Hommel’, on the cover of the book ‘Der Führer’, by Karl Hederich, 1942.
Right:  Conrad Hommel, ‘The Leader’, depicted in Soldatenblätter für Feier und Feizeit’, 1942, Heft 4, published by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. The text reads: ‘Treue, Opferwilligkeit und Verschwiegenheit sind Tugenden die ein grosses Volk nötig braucht, Adolf Hitler’ (‘Faithfulness, Self-sacrifice, Discretion, are virtues, that a great people needs, Adolf Hitler’).
   

Left: Conrad Hommel, ‘Der Fühhrer’, depicted on the cover of ‘Der grossdeutsche Freiheitskampf’, by Phillip Bouhler, published in 1943.
Right: ‘Wir folgen Dir’ (‘We folow You’). Conrad Hommel’s depiction of Hitler on a propaganda poster in a sewing facility in Berlin, July 1942.
   

Left: ‘Der Führer’ by Hommel, depicted full-page in ‘Velhagen & Klasing Monatshefte’, April 1943. Also depicted in ‘Das Bild’, 1941.
Right: depicted in ‘Münchener Mosaik, Kulturelle Monatsschrift der Haupstadt der Bewegung’, Heft 1 and 2, page 160, 1941, with the text: ‘Eine weit überlebensgrosse Zeichnung Hommels vom Kopf des Führers in Rechtsprofil geben wir als Beispiele einer festgefühlten, mit sicherstem Wissen um das Wesentliche durchgearbeiteten Grafik’. 
 

– condition : II
– size : 51 x 42 cm, excluding passe-partout 33 x 25 cm
– signed  : right, below: ‘C. Hommel 1941’ and again signed below the depiction
– type : watercolor

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BIOGRAPHY: CONRAD HOMMEL

Conrad Hommel, ‘Der Führer und Oberste Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht’ (‘The Leader and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces’), 1940. GDK 1940 room 1. Bought by Hitler for 25.000 Reichsmark. Size 251 x 188 cm. In the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History.

Conrad Hommel, ‘Der Führer im Kampfgelände’ (‘The Leader at the Front’). GDK 1941 room 1. Left from Hitler Hermann Göring, right from Hitler Wilhelm Keitel. Bought by Albert Speer for 50.000 Reichsmark. 

Hitler as art
Thirty-six paintings and busts of Hitler were displayed at the Great German Art Exhibitions from 1937 to 1944. The first painting that people saw when they entered the exhibition was one of Der Führer in Room 1. In similar fashion, the official exhibition catalogues all started with a picture of the ‘Schirmherr (patron) Des Haus der Deutschen Kunst’.

Around 450 portraits depicting Hitler and other Nazi-officials, Nazi-symbols, German Soldiers and battle fields are currently stored in the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington. Keeping this German War Art Collection in the US is not seen by the Americans as a violation of the 1907 Hague Convention and the 1970 UNESCO Treaty on cultural property, as they don’t classify these paintings as art.
In 2004 Brigadier General John Brown, outgoing head of the U.S. Army’s Center of Military History, was interviewed about the Army’s view of the legal status of these 450 objects in the German War Art Collection that remained in the custody of the United States. When asked if the Army’s continues sequestration of these works, which had been determined to be in volation of U.S. and German laws in 1947, could not also be construed as a volation of the 1907 Hague Convention and the 1970 UNESCO treaty on cultural property, he replied, “No. That would only be true if the objects in the German War Art Collection could be defined as cultural property or art. Our position is that these paintings are no art” (‘Nostalgia for the Future’, Gregory Maertz, 2019).
This remarkable point of view leads us to the following question: is a painting depicting Angela Merkel, Joseph Stalin, Benjamin Netanyahu or Mao Zedong art or non-art? And who decides this? Respectively German left-wing extremists? Russian civilians? Palestinians or Taiwanese civilians? Can people be interested in a portrait of Napoleon (or Hitler) because of it’s historical significance? Or does their interest mean that they are automatically right-wing extremists with the aim of conquering the whole of Europe? This last point of view echoes the theory of Hannah Ahrend who states: ‘The essence of terror lies in the immediate transition from accusation to conviction’. One thing we learned very well from the tragic 1930s and 1940s is that classifying art as ‘non-art’ is a dead-end-street, just like burning and forbidding books for political reasons. No matter how much one dislikes Hitler, Napoleon, Caligula or Stalin, and no matter how much their depictions were used as propaganda, a painting or sculpture of them cannot be reclassified as ‘non art’.

Left: Conrad Hommel, ‘Dr. Schacht’, signed 1935. Red chalk drawing of Hjalmar Schacht (1877 – 1970), economist, banker, centre-right politician, and co-founder in 1918 of the German Democratic Party. Schacht served as the Currency Commissioner and President of the Reichsbank under the Weimar Republic, and from 1933 – 1939 as President of the National Bank. From 1934 to 1937 he was also Minister of Economics.
Displayed at the GDK 1938 room 30. Depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Dritten Reich’, 1938. 
An oil painting of ‘Reichsbankpräsident Dr. Hjalmar Schacht’ by Hommel was displayed at the exhibition ‘Münchener Künstler, Ausstellung in der Preussischen Akademie der Künste’, Berlin, 1935 (that painting was in the possession of the Reichsbank).
Right: ‘Dr. Schacht’ by Hommel, print. Size 51 x 42 cm, in the possession of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (gift of Time Magazine). 
 

 

Conrad Hommel, ‘Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, -Meeting with the Air Ministery’, Reichsluftfahrtministerium, 1942/43. Hommel depicted Göring as ‘Reichsmarschall des grossdeutschen Reiches’. The 48 square meter painting was intended for the Berlin Feldherren-Pantheon, planned by Wilhelm Kreis.
Photo at the bottom: Conrad Hommel standing in front of the painting (or draft). Depicted in ‘Das Bild des Herrschers in Malerei und Grafik des Nationalsozialismus’, by Tobias Ronge.

Left: Conrad Hommel, ‘Hermann Göring’. Depicted on the cover of the book ‘Hermann Göring, Werk und Mensch’, 1938. Also depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Dritten Reich’, 1937.
Right: ‘Reichsmarschall Göring’ by Conrad Hommel. Art print issued by Heinrich Hoffmann publishers.

The extreme scarcity of National Socialistic art
Massive, systematic destruction of Nazi art since 1945: the Potsdam-Agreement
From 1933 to 1949 Germany experienced two massive art purges. Both the National Socialist government and OMGUS (the U.S. Military Government in Germany) were highly concerned with controlling what people saw and how they saw it. The Nazis eliminated what they called ‘Degenerate art’, erasing the pictorial traces of turmoil and heterogeneity that they associated with modern art. The Western Allies in turn eradicated ‘Nazi art’ and forbade all artworks military subjects or themes that could have military and/or chauvinist symbolism from pictorial representation. Both the Third Reich and OMGUS utilized the visual arts as instruments for the construction of new German cultural heritages.
The Potsdam Agreement of 2 August 1945, subparagraph 3, Part III, Section A stated that one purpose of the occupation of Germany was ‘to destroy the National Socialistic Party and its affiliated and supervised organizations and to dissolve all Nazi and militaristic activity or propaganda.’ In accordance with Allied Control Council laws and military government regulations, all documents and objects which might tend to revitalize the Nazi spirit or German militarism would be confiscated or destroyed. For example, Title 18, Military Government Regulation, OMGUS stated that: ‘all collections of works of art related or dedicated to the perpetuation of German militarism or Nazism will be closed permanently and taken into custody.’ As a consequence, thousands of paintings –portraits of Nazi-leaders, paintings containing a swastika or depicting military/war sceneries– were considered ‘of no value’ and destroyed. With knives, fires and hammers, they smashed countless sculptures and burned thousands of paintings. Around 8,722 artworks were shipped to military deposits in the U.S.
OMGUS regulated and censored the art world. The Information Control Division (ICD, the key structure in the political control of post-war German culture in the American zone) was in fact a non-violent version of the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture). With its seven subdivisions (i.e. press, literature, radio, film, theatre, music, and art), the ICD neatly replaced the Reich Chamber of Culture. The ICD established through its various sections a system of licensed activity, with screening and vetting by Intelligence to exclude all politically undesirable people.

‘Free’ German artists producing ‘free German art’ after 1945
In the ideology of OMGUS, painting was conceived of as a strategic element in the campaign to politically re-educate the German people for a new democratic internationalism. Modern art allowed for the establishment of an easy continuity with the pre-Nazi modernist past, and it could serve as a springboard for the international projection of Germany as a new country interacting with its new Western partners.

‘Free’ artists producing ‘free art’ was one of the most powerful symbols of the new Germany, the answer to the politically controlled art of the Third Reich. Modern art linked Western Germany to Western Europe – separating the new West German aesthetic and politics from that of the Nazi era, the U.S.S.R., and East Germany – and suggested an ‘authentically’ German identity.

Left: Conrad Hommel,  ‘Reichsjägermeister Hermann Göring’. Depicted is the Head of the German Hunting Society, Hermann Göring. GDK 1939 room 23. Bought by Hitler for 15.000 Reichsmark.
Right: Conrad Hommel, ‘Hermann Göring’. Date of creation unknown.
   

Left: Conrad Hommel, ‘Reichsjägermeister Hermann Göring’, 1937. Red chalk drawing. Depicted is the Head of the German Hunting Society, Hermann Göring. GDK 1938 room 30. Bought by Hitler for 1.600 Reichsmark.
Right: Conrad Hommel, ‘Generalfeldmarschall Hermann Göring’, 1939. Red chalk drawing. GDK 1939 room 30. Bought by Joseph Goebbels for 1.200 Reichsmark.
   

Conrad Hommel, ‘Heinrich Himmler’, 1943. Size 210 x 140 cm. Displayed in December 1946 at the German War Art Exhibition in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. In the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History. 

Conrad Hommel, ‘Generalfeldmarschall v. Mackensen’, 1936. Anton Ludwig Friedrich August von Mackensen (1849 – 1945), German field marshal, commanded successfully during the First World War and became one of the German Empire’s most prominent and competent military leaders. After the armistice, Mackensen was interned for a year. He retired from the army in 1920 and was made a Prussia state counselor in 1933 by Hermann Göring. Displayed at the GDK 1937 room 15. Depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Dritten Reich’, 1937.

 

Left: Conrad Hommel, ‘Paul von Hindenburg’, 1927. Depicted in ‘Das Bild des Herrschers in Malerei und Grafik des Nationalsozialismus’, by Tobias Ronge.
Right: Conrad Hommel, ‘Dame mit Pelzmütze’ (‘Lady with Fur Cap’), 1942. Red chalk drawing, size 80 x 58 cm. GDK 1942 room 30. Bought by Hitler for 2.500 Reichsmark, destinated for the Reichskanzlei. In the possession of the German Historical Museum, Berlin. Stored in the CCP Munchen on 25 October 1945. 
   

Left: Conrad Hommel, ‘Portrait of Albert Einstein‘, 1931/34.  Apparently different versions of the painting exist. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen/ Pinakotek der Moderne aquired one in 1931 at the exhibition in the Deutsches Museum in Munich (size 48 x 36 cm).
MIddle: Conrad Hommel, ‘Portrait der Großfürstin Kira Kirillovna Romanova’ (‘Portrait of Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia (1909 – 1967), daughter of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia and Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha). She married the head of the German Imperial House, Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia. Size 80 x 65 cm. Sold by a German auction house in 2013.
Right: Conrad Hommel, ‘Portrait of Carl Henkell’, 1920s. Carl Henkel was a wealthy producer of Sekt. Depicted in ‘Das Bild des Herrschers in Malerei und Grafik des Nationalsozialismus’, by Tobias Ronge.   

In 1924 Conrad Hommel was represented at the XIV Biennale di Venezia with is work ‘Ritratto d’Uomo’ (‘Portrait of a Man’); the work was very prominent described and depicted in the 1924-exhibition catalog. 

 

Left: Conrad Hommel (left) with his wife, the sculptor Barbara von Kalkreuth, at the GDK 1940. At the right the journalist L.E. Reindl. At tha back ‘Plowing‘ by Julius Paul Junghanns; the painting was bought by Hitler for 18.000 Reichsmark.
Right: Conrad Hommel, on the background, right, ‘Generalfeldmarschall v. Mackensen’, 1936.
 

 

Conrad Hommel, court painter in the Third Reich
Conrad Hommel (1883 – 1971), born in a family of industrialists, was a German painter. He started by staying in Rome and Florence in 1905, then completed his education in Paris, where, from 1906 to 1908, he was the pupil of painter Jean-Paul Laurens, member of the art academy and Ernst Meissonnier’s successor to the chairmanship of the Society of French artists. In 1908 he married Carolina Schultheiss (1869-1938), the ex wife of the painter Georg Schuster Woldan. Conrad Hommel’s sister was married with Albert Friedrich Speer and she was the mother of architect Albert Speer.
From 1909 to 1911 Hommel studied painting at the Munich Academy under Hugo von Habermann, a leading name of the Munich Secession. In 1912 Hommel joint the Munich Secession; later in 1934 he would become their president. In the Weimar Republic, Hommel became well known for his paintings of President Friedrich Ebert, President Hindenburg (1927), Albert Einstein, Kurt von Schleicher, Horst Stangl, Ferdinand Liebermann and Franz von Papen (1932). In the first two decades his style was late-impressionistic, later his portraits and half-length portraits were executed in the traditional style after Lenbach and Kaulbach.  
In 1924 Hommel was represented at the XIV Biennale di Venezia with is work ‘Ritratto d’Uomo’ (‘Portrait of a Man’); the work was very prominent described and depicted in the 1924-exhibition catalogue. A year later he exhibited in Rome.
In 1936 Hommel received the Lenbach Price. A year later, 1937, he was appointed member of the jury of the Great German Art Exhibition. In 1939 he became professor and Head of Painting at the Berlin Academy of Art, and in the same year he divorced from his jewish wife Gertrud Danzinger to marry the sculptress Barbara von Kalckreuth. After Hommel had painted Göring (1936/37), he became the favorite portraitist of the Nazi party, turning out endless pictures of Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Reichsbankpräsident Schacht, and other party and military leaders. His portraits were massively reproduced on posters, postcards and published in books and newspapers.
At the Great German Art Exhibitions Hommel was represented with 19 works which were sold for prices of up to 50.000 Reichsmark. His works were bought by Hitler (6), Albert Speer (2), Joseph Goebbels (2) and Martin Bormann. Displayed works were depicting Göring (4), Hitler (3), August von Mackensen (3), Hjalmar Schacht (2), Albert Speer (2) and Joseph Goebbels. Prominent works were ‘Der Führer und Oberste Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht’ (‘The Leader and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces’, GDK 1940); ‘Der Führer im Kampfgelände’ (‘The Leader at the Front’, GDK 1941, bought by Albert Speer for 50.000 Reichsmark); and ‘Der Führer’ (‘The Leader’, GDK 1941, bought by Martin Bormann). In these years Hommel is particularly close to the Goebbels family.  
Hommel participated in the German Artists-and-the-SS exhibitions that took place in Wroclaw and Salzburg in 1944. In the final stages of World War II, he was added to the ‘Gottbegnadeten’ list of the most important artists to be kept from the war effort. His studios in Munich and Berlin, as well as a large number of his works, were destroyed in 1944/45 by Allied bombing.
After the war, he was accused of being a Nazi activist and beneficiary at a Denazification court, in Munich on 9 July 1948, but the complaint was withdrawn after a month. He settled in Upper Bavaria, but returned to Munich in 1950. He continued his career as a portrait painter in banking and industrial circles; inter alia commisioned work for Hjalmar Schacht and the industrialists Haniel, Goergen and Harald Quandt (stepson of Joseph Goebbels).
Conrad Hommel died in November 1971 in Sielbeck.
The German Historical Museum in Berlin is in the possession of ‘Dame mit Pelzmütze’ (‘Lady with Fur Cap’, GDK 1942, bought by Hitler). The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen/ Pinakotek der Moderne owns ‘Bildnis der Tochter des Künstlers‘ (‘Portrait of the Daughter of the Artist‘), ‘Bildnis von Hindenburg‘ (‘Portrait of Von Hindenburg‘), ‘Prof. Einstein‘, 1931/32) and ‘Bildnis eines älteren Herrn‘ (‘Portrait of an Older Man‘). Portraits of Prof. Habermann by Hommel are in the possession of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the Münchener Stadtmuseum and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus. The US Army Centre of Military History holds: ‘Der Führer und Oberste Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht’ (GDK 1940); ‘Heinrich Himmler’ (1943, displayed in December 1946 at the German War Art Exhibition in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt); and ‘Der Führer’ (GDK 1941).
‘Der Führer’ by Hommel, a red chalk drawing depicting Hitler’s head in profile, is described as ‘The cult of the face of Hitler reached a peak with this drawing’, and ‘Hitlers face depicted in profile, the mystical lighting from the right side gives it a religious aura’ (‘Das Bild des Herrschers in Malerei und Grafik des Nationalsozialismus’, Tobias Ronge). Hitler’s GDK-profile drawing by Hommel was found back in 1945 in the Altaussee-mine*. It was brought on 29 October 1945 to the Central Collecting Point Munich, and displayed in December 1946 at the German War Art Exhibition in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Nowadays this drawing is in the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History, Washington D.C.

*Conrad Hommel in the Führermuseum
The Führermuseum, or ‘Linz art gallery’, was an unrealized art museum planned by Adolf Hitler for his hometown, the Austrian city of Linz, near his birthplace of Braunau. Its purpose was to display a selection of the art bought, confiscated or stolen by the Nazis from throughout Europe during World War II. The overall plan was to turn Linz into one of the greatest art centers of Europe, overshadowing Vienna.  Hitler personally favored German and Austrian paintings from the 19th century, but the collection also contained many early German, Dutch, French, and Italian paintings. The collection, when it was whole, included 4,731 pieces, not just paintings but also tapestries, sculpture, furniture and porcelain. Beginning in February 1944, the artworks were relocated to the 14th-century Steinberg salt mines above the village of Altaussee, in which the holdings of various Viennese museums had earlier been transferred.

The profile drawing of Hitler by Conrad Hommel was part of the collection of the Führermuseum, which was quite extraordinary, as the collection hardly contained works of contemporary art.