Book Review: Looted Beauty

Looted Beauty:  A Coloring Book Of Lost Art, by Anthony M. Amore and Karl Stevens

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Edelweiss/Schiffer Publishing.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

The great degree of looting that was done by the Nazis during World War II has been well documented [1] and this book serves as part of the larger body of work relating to the recovery of art that was stolen from its rightful owners because of Nazi cultural politics and greed.  To be sure, I came upon this book somewhat by accident, but thinking about it, it was easy to appreciate the efforts at letting people know about some of the pieces of artwork that fell prey to the Nazis during the time of Nazi rule over Germany.  Although there have been precious artworks looted in other invasions, all of these paintings are works which were repossessed by the Nazis or their puppet governments during the period between 1933 and 1945.  Tragically enough, some of these pieces of art are still lost and/or destroyed and some of them fortunately have been recovered, even if it took epic legal action to do.  In general, though, this book has a tragic feel to it.

Coming in at only 66 pages, this is not a particularly long coloring book and those who want to color its drawings will find that it does not hold their attention for very long.  The drawings are quite well-chosen though, as there are some works by such luminaries as Leonardo Da Vinci, Manet, and Van Gogh to be found here.  Quite a bit of the drawings came from expressionistic artists who were judged as degenerate artists, many of them because of Jewish ancestry or the political implications of their work.  What will stay with the reader for far longer than the drawings themselves to color are the stories of the lost paintings and the suffering endured by the artists and/or the people who owned these paintings, some of whom were killed in the machinery of death or who were driven to despair.  Even worse, some postwar governments, like France and Austria, ended up with some of these works of art in ways that are less than entirely legitimate.  This book tends to make the sympathetic reader, and I suppose I can be judged as a sympathetic reader, wish for a better fate for creators and owners of art work than to have one’s work stolen by corrupt governments.

This book straddles a line between a coloring book aimed at kids and a serious effort at art education.  One wonders what exactly the authors of this book had in mind.  Did they wish to show yet another way that the Nazis were evil and to caution people on the thieving of contemporary governments, or to show that even after the war many governments or corrupt collectors were a bit slow on returning stolen art to their rightful civilian owners?  Were the text and the drawings aimed at children or aimed at adults who have a strong degree of interest in world-class art?  The odds are that anyone who sets their efforts to color the drawings or to read the often tragic stories about these pieces of artwork will find much both to enjoy as well as to mourn.  This is a book whose mood and tone is somewhat ambivalent, a celebration to great art as well as to the destruction and robbery of that art by rogue governments as well as rogue art collectors.  It seems that these mixed feelings of appreciation and outrage are intentional, and such a complicated mood of a love for great art and a sense of righteous anger at thieves of such art is a feeling worth cultivating and understanding.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Book Review: Looted Beauty

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