A Glibertarians Exclusive:  The Painter I

Beelitz, Germany – 1919

It was less than a year since the Great War ended.  It would have been so easy for the young man to have slipped away to anger, to dissolution, to join the unrest that swept Germany.  In the horror of the trenches, he had almost forgotten his pre-war fascination with painting, but his patron had not; while the young man was serving in a Bavarian regiment, while he was being awarded the Iron Cross First Class, while he was being wounded, being gassed, someone had been patiently tracking down and purchasing all the paintings the young man had produced before the war.  He had heard of the collector third hand, from his sister, from his mother, and from his few remaining acquaintances in Austria.

Then, once the Armistice was in place, while the young man was still recovering from the gas attack, the buyer of the paintings had tracked him down in the hospital in Beelitz.  The young man had been lying in his bed, soaking in anger and self-pity, when the gray-haired, portly man in what looked to be an expensive suit walked in and took a chair next to the young man’s bed.

“My name,” the older man had told him, “Is Avram Goldberg.”

The younger man gave his name.  He regarded the older man suspiciously.  “Why are you here?”

Goldberg produced a large brown envelope and handed it to the recovering soldier.  “Look at these.”

‘These’ turned out to be a series of photographs.  The young soldier, squinting through the remaining visual haze remaining from his gas exposure, nevertheless identified the subject of the photographs.  “These are my paintings,” he said in some amazement.  “You are the one who has been buying them.”

“I am.  You have a rare gift, young man,” Goldberg said.  “Since 1915, I have purchased every one of your paintings that I was able to locate.”


“Because I am a German,” Goldberg pointed out.  “Because Mein Herr, you show the beautiful side of Germany and Austria so well.  During the recent… unpleasantness, the world came only to see Germany as a military power, and the Kaiser as a warmonger.  You show the other side of Germany – the culture, the architecture, the daily life in the towns and cities.  I want to promote that.  The war is lost.  Germany must move forward now.  To do that, I am willing to underwrite you as an artist.  You will need not worry about expenses, about food or shelter, or supplies.  I will provide that.  I will promote your career.  I have contacts all over Europe.  I can easily do all of that.”

The young soldier leaned back against his pillow.  “You want me to present Germany’s best face to the world?”

“Yes,” Goldberg said.

“I must think on this,” the soldier demurred.

“I will return tomorrow.”


Munich, six months later:

The Pinakothek was Munich’s premiere museum of art.  The young man who was hurrying through the crowded morning streets of Munich towards that museum, the young man whose patron had set up this exhibit of his work, still couldn’t quite believe how quickly his fortunes had reversed.

The Pinakothek was still closed when he arrived.  A knock on the door brought a sleepy-looking clerk, who peeked out at the young man.

“Who are you?” the clerk demanded.  “What do you want?”

Herr Goldberg has organized an exhibit of my paintings here today.”

The clerk pulled out a scrap of paper and consulted it.  “Your name?”

“Adolf Hitler.”

Ach.  Yes.  Here you are.  The painter.”  The clerk held the door open.  “Come in.  Herr Goldberg is waiting for you.”

The venue was impressive.  The results of the exhibition were rather more so, and Adolf came away from the day with several commissions, including one from the Lord Mayor of Munich, Eduard Schmid.  “It’s hard to believe,” Adolf told his patron at the end of the day.

“Indeed,” Goldberg replied.  “You have done very well.  It does not hurt that you have a certain… charisma, when speaking to groups of your attendees.  You have a knack for gaining and holding their attention.”

Adolf considered that for a moment.

“Now,” Goldberg went on, “Let us discuss moving you onto a larger stage.”

Adolf looked at the older man.  He blinked; his head was still spinning with the figures, the amount of money involved in the commissions he had just agreed to.  “What larger stage?”

“Europe.  To start with.  Here,” Goldberg handed Adolf another brown envelope.

Adolf opened the envelope.  Inside were train tickets to…


“Indeed.  It is one of Europe’s major cultural centers.  We will have at least two exhibitions in Rome.  I have already found and leased a studio there for you.  I can meet these expenses for a year, perhaps eighteen months.  Judging from today’s performance, I am confident you will be quite well-off on your own effort by then.”

Adolf nodded, his expression serious and determined.  “I will.”

“May I give you one piece of advice?”

“Of course.”

“Do something about the mustache.  Either grow it out properly or shave it off.  You look as though you were growing a toothbrush on your lip.”

“I will consider it.”

Two weeks later found him in Rome – and clean-shaven. Previously, Adolf had only experienced German food, culture, and history.  Staying in Rome was a new experience.  History surrounded him, and he had taken up an informal study of the Roman Empire, inspired by visits to local sites and fueled by reading what books he could find on the Roman Emperors.

Evening, and Adolf was hurrying to an appointment.  A local businessman, one who claimed descent from a famous Italian artist, had retained Adolf to paint a portrait of his twin nieces.  Adolf had not previously done a personal portrait, but the businessman had readily agreed to the figure Adolf had named.  He had, in effect, made Adolf an offer that was too good to refuse.

The nieces had a room somewhere near the historic Spanish Steps.  Adolf was running late for his appointment to start sketching the twins, so now he was hurrying through a damp, chilly evening.

Since that first exhibition in Munich, Adolf felt as though he had hurried everywhere.  I have no time to do my own work, he reminded himself.  To paint what I want to paint.  To show what I want to show.  Goldberg said he wanted me to show the better side of Germany.  How am I doing that by painting a rich Italian’s nieces?

Soon, he thought.  Soon.  I’m making money with these tasks.  My name is becoming known across Europe.  One day I will be known as the one who showed the world the pride and the beauty of Germany and the German people.  He smiled, slightly, as he hurried through the drizzling rain.  Maybe these Italian twins will even realize the glory of Germany. 


Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble.
Ancient footprints are everywhere.
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double,
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.
Got to hurry on back to my hotel room,
Where I’ve got me a date with Botticelli’s niece.
She promised that she’d be right there with me,
When I paint my masterpiece.