Case Study
"Portrait of Adolf Hitler"
by Heinrich Knirr

Before Treatment
Biographical History
  Adolf Hitler  
Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 in Branau am Inn, Austria just across the Inn River from Germany. His family soon moved to Linz, Austria. In 1907, two years after his father's death, he moved to Vienna. He twice took the entrance examination at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, but failed both times. In 1913 he moved to Munich, Germany and the following year enlisted in the WWI German Army. He was wounded in the war and twice decorated for bravery. After the war he returned to Munich and became a member of the German Workers' Party. In 1920 the group changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party which became known as the Nazi Party.
In the early 1920's, Germany was in a state of unrest. Severe economic problems had devalued the currency, unemployment was pervasive and the Berlin Republic lacked popular support largely due to the restrictions and conditions of the 1919 Versailles Treaty which ended WWI and imposed loss of land, disarmament and 33 billion dollars in reparations. Hitler used these factors to build up the Nazi Party and in 1923 led a takeover of the Bavarian government known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The unsuccessful attempt landed him in jail for treason where he began to write Mein Kampf. Hitler was released from prison just before Christmas in 1924.
After his release he spent the next several years strengthening the Nazi Party. The American economic collapse in 1929 had a powerful influence on Europe and became a factor in Germany's 1930 depression. In 1932 five political elections were held in Germany as the country struggled for stability. Finally, on January, 30, 1933 the 86-year-old President, Paul von Hindenburg, named Hitler Chancellor of Germany. Over the next several years Hitler moved toward total dictatorship, abolishing freedom of the press, labor unions and all other political parties. He organized his secret police, the Gestapo, to jail or shoot anyone opposed to Nazi doctrine. Jews and opponents were ruthlessly dealt with. Hitler ruled the political and legal systems and appointed himself Führer.
From 1933-1939 he prepared Germany for war. He built up the German war machine, the Wehrmacht, in defiance of the Versailles Treaty. In 1936 he occupied the Rhineland. In 1938 he absorbed Austria into Germany, referred to as the Anschluss. Later the same year, with the consent of England and France, he acquired the German areas of Czechoslovakia. Not content, he overran the remainder of Czechoslovakia the following year. All of these victories without war ended on September 1, 1939. On this date Hitler invaded Poland. Hitler presumed Great Britain and France would not come to the defense of Poland. He was wrong. Britain and France declared war on Germany initiating World War II.
Hitler's early victories were staggering and included Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and, in 1940, France. Yugoslavia and Greece were next. In 1941 he invaded Russia but the Russian forces coupled with the Russian winter led to a turning point in the War. The United States entered the War in December of 1941 and Hitler found himself fighting on two fronts. The losses in Russia were overwhelming as the Germans attempted to fight through a second winter. By 1944 the Russians had gained the upper hand and were pushing towards Germany. The American and British forces invaded Europe on the Western front. In 1945 the German army was in ruins. On April 30, 1945 Hitler committed suicide in an underground bunker of the Berlin Chancellery. His death contributed to the end of WWII where over 50,000,000 people lost their lives.
Heinrich Knirr
Very little is known about Heinrich Knirr. There are no articles written on him and almost all of the paintings in this essay are unpublished in current literature. Knirr was born in Pancsova, Hungary on September 2, 1862. He studied at the Vienna Academy and in Munich where he lived until 1914. In 1888 he established a private drawing and painting school in Munich.(1) From 1898 to 1901 Paul Klee was one of his students. Klee's artistic style was considered "degenerate" under Nazi restrictions and he was eventually forced to leave Germany in 1933. Knirr's style, on the other hand, was based on heroic portraiture influenced by strong academic drawing and the Baroque sense of aristocratic grandeur. In 1914 he moved to Stanberg, a small town 20 miles southwest of Munich.(2)
Knirr must have enjoyed a certain stature in Munich and throughout Germany. He painted Hitler's official portrait for the 1937 opening of the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung, an annual German art exhibit in Munich. In Albert Speer's, Inside the Third Reich, he refers to Professor Knirr as "..Hitler's official painter."(3) With Hitler's image being in high demand, Knirr must have procured considerable artistic prestige. His limited biographical material thus becomes all the more unusual. Heinrich Knirr died in 1944.
(1) There is even a Chicago connection to Knirr for one of his students was Dorothy Loeb. Loeb completed the 1910 mural, "Columbus Landing in America" for the John M. Smyth Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois. In a past Chicago biography, Loeb has been improperly listed as having studied "in Munich with Heinrich Knorr."
(2) Some of this biographical information was obtained through the courtesy of Ms.Julia Beaumont-Jones, Office Manager, Department of Art, Imperial War Museum, London, England.
(3) Albert Speer Inside the Third Reich 1970 The Macmillan Company, Toronto, Canada. In reference to Hitler's chauffeur Julius Schreck, Speer records "After his early death, an oil portrait of Schreck hung in Hitler's private office at Obersalzberg side by side with one of Hitler's mother..." (p. 66.) In the Chapter notes, Speer states, "Both pictures were painted (from photographs) by Hitler's official painter, Professor Knirr, whom Hitler always rewarded handsomely for his work. A photograph from a later period shows Knirr was also commissioned to do a portrait of Hitler's father." (p. 528.)
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