National Socialist and Allied Perspectives in Photographic Documentation of Art Looting and Restitution
AuthorKowgios, Taylor Lu
AdvisorRomano, Irene B.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractConducted on a scale unseen before in history, the Nazi art looting operation set a new precedent for art theft that significantly altered the world’s approach to art protection and restitution in the aftermath of war. Documenting their successes, Nazi art looting agencies like the ERR utilized photography to capture evidence of their activities and of the quality of the artworks they had acquired, ultimately to assert their relevance and justify their existence to the Führer. Similarly, during their efforts to rescue and restitute looted artworks, Allied powers photographed their recovery operation both in the field and at collecting points. This study looks at two Nazi photographic archives documenting the art looting operations: the ERR “Hitler Albums” and the Koblenz Album (Bundesarchiv B 323-311), and Allied photographs of the “Monuments Men’s” active art recovery and restitution efforts at Neuschwanstein Castle and other repositories and at the Munich Central Collecting Point. Comparing the composition of these photographs also reveals similarities in Nazi and Allied methodologies in photographically documenting art looting and recovery, suggesting a shared aesthetic approach in asserting their opposing ideologies. A comparative analysis of their corresponding motivations revealed that the Nazi photographs functioned as semi-private, documentary images; the Allied photos, while also documentary in nature, exhibited greater immediate propagandistic potential. While both the Nazis and the Allies utilized public propaganda in WWII, their photographs of looted artwork occupy a much more complex position as documentary and propagandistic. Both Nazi and Allied photographs were also used as documentary evidence at the end of WWII and still serve today as the basis for provenance research in tracking the history of particular works of art and their owners in the Nazi period. To conclude, this thesis also utilizes these images to trace the provenance of a select few paintings that appear across the Nazi and Allied photographs to illustrate the continued life of the artworks. The Nazis and the Allies both employed photography to dictate the narrative of their respective art operations.
Degree ProgramGraduate College