Top 10 Famous Pieces of Art Stolen by the Nazis

9. Painter on the Road to Tarascon
Artist: Vincent van Gogh

painter on the road to tarascon

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter that died in 1890 at the age of 37. He is one of the most renowned and well known painters in the history of art. On January 31, 1933 Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. One of his first actions was the “cleansing of the German culture,” which included book burnings and the labeling of degenerate art. Degenerate art included all types of modern artistic expression. Any artist, past or present, that was not seen as having Aryan blood was deemed degenerate. Hitler made it a high priority to track down all degenerate art and steal it. If you were labeled a degenerate artist then you were not allowed to paint.

Nazi soldiers would even make routine house calls to ensure that some artists were not painting. The abuse was inflicted on many modern German painters, including Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who was labeled degenerate and had all of his over 600 works sold or destroyed. Kirchner would commit suicide in 1938. The Nazis destroyed hundreds of famous paintings and the ones that survived were featured in a “Degenerate Art Show.” It was claimed that this show was meant to incite further revulsion against the “perverse Jewish spirit.” The famous pieces of art were crowded into small rooms and often displayed with a hanging cord. According to the history books, the first room contained art considered demeaning of religion, the second featured works by Jewish artists in particular, and the third contained works deemed insulting to the people of Germany.

Some of the artists featured in the show were Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh. After the exhibit ended, the famous pieces of art were either destroyed or sold at auctions. A large amount of “degenerate art” by Picasso, Dalí, Ernst, Klee, Léger and Miró was destroyed in a bonfire on the night of July 27, 1942 in Paris. In 1939, a stolen self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh was auctioned at Gallerie Fisher, Lucerne, for $US 40.000. One of the most famous paintings to be burned during World War II is the Painter on the Road to Tarascon by Vincent van Gogh. It is not known for sure how the painting was burned, but it is thought to have perished when the Allied forces bombed Magdeburg, setting fire to the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum, which contained stolen art.


The Painter on the Road to Tarascon was lost forever when it became a causality of the Second World War, but the portrait has left a lasting impression. It remains one of the most cherished pieces of art that was lost in the war. The painting shows a lonely portrait of Vincent van Gogh traveling. The painting was a heavy influence on artist Francis Bacon, who described it as a haunting image of van Gogh, showing him as an alienated outsider. Vincent van Gogh was quoted as saying “Real painters do not paint things as they are…They paint them as they themselves feel them to be.”

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