“Art was a much-needed diversion for Churchill during the war’s darkest days, while Hitler once remarked that upon securing Germany’s future, he’d leave politics and live out his days painting.”
DESPITE THEIR MANY differences (not to mention their burning mutual hatred), Britain’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill and Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler shared at least one thing in common: Both were painters.
Churchill was 40 and a rising politico when he first took up the brush and palette (albeit tentatively). Over the next 40 years, he’d strive to hone his talents, ultimately producing more than 500 works of art in the process. Most of his canvasses dealt in landscapes, although Churchill also completed a number of portraits in his time. Art would become a much-needed diversion for the future wartime leader during his ignoble exile to the political wilderness during the 1930s. It would again serve as a vital outlet for the indefatigable prime minister during the darkest days of the Second World War. Churchill continued to devote time to his passion after the war. “When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the subject,” he once joked. 
Assorted paintings by Winston Churchill
Unlike his Anglo nemesis, Hitler aspired to be an artist from a very young age. After being passed over for entry to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna on two separate occasions, the 19-year-old future German chancellor eked out a living painting postcards of famous buildings in the Austrian capital for tourists. A local art dealer by the name of Samuel Morgenstern bought and resold a number of Hitler’s works to local collectors, the majority of whom (ironically) were Jewish. Hitler later relocated to Munich in hopes of launching a career in the city’s thriving art scene. Broke by 1914, the penniless painter enlisted in the German army and marched off to war, where he spent much of his off-duty time painting the grim landscapes of the Western Front. Hitler finally abandoned art in 1919 and thrust himself into the turbulent world of post-war German politics. Twenty years later on the eve of the Second World War, he mused in a discussion with British diplomat Neville Henderson that once he had secured Germany’s future, he’d leave politics for good and spend the rest of his days painting. He never lived to realize his wish.
Selections from the works of Adolf Hitler
(Originally published in MilitaryHistoryNow.com on Sept. 7, 2015)