The collective history of the human experience makes The Arts relevant. As much as the past shapes individuals, the world is collectively influenced by music, dance, artwork, and literature. We’ve stopped asking the question, ‘Why?’ which we commonly asked as children. The Arts answers this question in many different forms, and offers us the ability to live life in another’s shoes or feel the pleasure or torment when witnessing the art composer’s work, perspective, and ultimate experience in life.

The importance of it all is the capacity of endurance and preserving how the Arts instill feeling. Whether it’s destiny, fate, gods, or by design, each artistic method tells a story – whether cautionary or oddly true to life.

The Stolen Art of WW2

The Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael

Rightful owner: Czartoryski Museum & the People of Poland
The most important piece of Artwork stolen by the Nazis during WW2, the missing Raphael.

 

As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the end of WW2 it is important to remind ourselves and our progeny of the catastrophic losses of life liberty and property that happened during the Nazi Era. Although the Nazis will always be remembered as cruel inhumane thugs whats lesser known is that they were the most prolific thieves in contemporary history. Every country they entered they were intent on two things, killing and torturing the populace and looting anything of value and returning it to Germany. When it came to architecture they were quick to show their hatred of the people they victimized by breaking their spirit and destroying any connection to their governments via its architecture. There was absolutely nothing that was off limits and they were quick to justify their actions with twisted logic. Besides paintings they took books, ceramics and religious treasures. Although most artwork was found there are still 100,000 pieces of artworks in various registry’s like the Art Loss Registery and the German Lost Art Foundation. Certain works were spared. Modernists of the time were deemed degenerate and their work was stolen and then sold for hard currency. Rembrandt had a proclivity for painting people of the Jewish faith. The Nazis knew art when they saw it but they weren’t so quick to display it if the subject was ‘tainted’ so to speak but they wouldn’t sell it either. Many of these works were stored and then found by allied officers schooled in the arts post the German demise. Still many classical works exist and are found all the time as the original thieves die off. Some change hands in semi secret all the time and are known to exist but international law enforcement is never able to retrieve them.


Rembrandt Portrait of a Wealthy Gentleman
Sold in a package of paintings owned by a deceased German in the 1980’s

 

Most every European country has some kind of registry or claim to stolen artwork. Works are still missing because of loss of previous ownership records, archaic laws regarding statutes of limitations long expired and vague restitution requirements. One thing is clear whoever holds these paintings are not the rightful owners.

As we wind down our search for real Nazis to bring to justice as they have simply died off or we now go after small cogs of men who acted as camp guards and try to justify their Nazi history when they were just young men caught up in the machine that doesn’t rectify any former wrongdoing and doesn’t seem attractive to even people of adult age. Something we can do, and as Americans we should do, is bring to light the nature of art losses for the sake of humanity. Not to just right wrongs but as a reminder of the periods of classical art that once existed. My question as a person of interest and no aficionado is where did it go so horribly wrong. What happened to the days of intellectuals, why don’t we have any contemporary masters? Has innocence been completely lost never to be recovered? Below is the response of an art expert of which I am not.



En Canot
Missing since WW2

 

Whether it’s having technology at our fingertips, the simple loss of patience, the rise of globalization, or a search for the shortest way to get to the top, we wonder why there are no more modern masters. To be a master, we think that we need followers, the easily attainable kind–from Facebook, Instagram, Youtube–you pick the medium, but the amount of followers only gets people so far. The masters of their time created not out of the desire to be followed, but rather to do something differently. They were the first to look through a different lens, and their creation spoke for itself. It then continues to speak. The master put in the time, intensity, and patience necessary for the process. Now, we seem to use time that we don’t have; we want all of our days to be maximized. There are odd trends like the re-popularization of Bob Ross. We yearn for another time, yet we want art that serves a purpose, makes a political statement, fulfills a trend…art that speaks to us on so many levels, but we do not quiet our lives long enough to focus.

We have to be innovative with what we already know, and we know a lot. Instead of a bar being created, heightened past the old masters, it seems an easy route to break-away and attempt to rebel from the aesthetics of the art world in general (impossible). The market for art–famous art that embraces the modern, work that’s difficult to decipher what exactly it is, let alone if it’s art, is on the rise. Today, all fields — not just art — are branching out in search of their ‘top’ or pinnacle for the field, and we are in the time of integration, a necessary step in the path to reach it.


Jewess with Oranges
Recovered in 2011