January 31 2013

Image of Really?

Picture: Mail/Newsteam/Mullock's Auctioneers

There's been lots of excitement in the UK press about a 'newly discovered' portrait of Goering. From the Mail:

A never-before-seen portrait of Nazi leader Hermann Goering painted by a Jewish artist during the 1930s is set to go under the hammer.

The oil painting by Imre Goth enraged the tyrant after it was completed, as he was furious that it depicted him as the morphine-fuelled drug addict he was.

Goering was so outraged by the artwork that Goth feared for his life, and was forced to flee Germany and seek refuge in Britain. The portrait never left the possession of its creator, and on his death 30 years ago he asked a friend to destroy it. But the confidante kept the unique work, and it is expected to sell for thousands of pounds when it goes up for auction next month.

I'm no Imre Goth expert, but from what I've seen of his work he was a much better artist than this. There's something rather disingenuous about the picture on offer here - its surface, colouring, and drawing all look most odd. Caveat emptor, as they say...

And in any case, why would you want to sell, much less buy, a portrait of such an odious figure. Check out this peculiar argument for buying the portrait from the auctioneer:

The portrait forms part of a war memorabilia sale to be held by Mullock’s auctioneers in Ludlow, Shropshire on February 14. Its reserve price is £8,000, but it has previously been valued by experts as high as £50,000.

'The historical significance of this portrait cannot be denied,' said Richard Westwood-Brookes of Mullock's.

'As opposed to the official Nazi portraits of Goering, this shows him exactly what he was - a depraved drug addict - and for that reason I personally think it should be displayed publicly to show successive generations exactly what the Nazis really were, as opposed to their now more familiar propaganda images.'

Update - a reader writes:

I agree who would want it. The sad reality though is that there are lots of people out there who are Nazi sympathers/fans/memorabilia collectors and all it really takes is two of them!

..If you Google nazi memoribilia there are even dealers!

Update II - another reader writes:

I too was bemused by Mullock's angle on the portrait. There's a faint sense like a bad smell in the back alleys of the auction world that shiny boots and swastikas are considered rather impressive.

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