Philip Johnson — yes, you remember him. The tall, elegant New York architect, immaculate in his dark suit, lived in a glass house but didn’t throw stones… cultural icon with a wry sense of humor, ultimate partier… all thanks to being independently wealthy due to early ownership of Alcoa Aluminum stock…
Johnson was heavily involved with Harvard, Yale, the Museum of Modern Art, and oh, yes, ADOLF HITLER. Oops!
What? Quite a slip-up! Some say a youthful mistake, I say WAY too involved for WAY too long. Pals with Hitler?
… it turns out that this “early admiration” lasted for the better part of a decade. During that time… Johnson helped organize a U.S. fascist party. He worked on behalf of the Nazi sympathizer and radio broadcaster Father Charles E. Coughlin. He attended one of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies in 1938, and in 1939 he followed the German army into Poland. “We saw Warsaw burn and Modlin being bombed,” he wrote afterward. “It was a stirring spectacle.”1
Johnson went to Harvard but dropped in and out to travel in Europe, trying to contend with his sexual identity. His crushes on two other Harvard students, Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and Henry-Russell Hitchcock led to his rapid entrance into a career in the arts. Barr was appointed director of the brand new Museum of Modern Art, and Hitchcock was an aficionado of Modern architecture. Hitchcock and Johnson traveled together to Germany to study the subject in 1930. Unfortunately, he “returned with enthusiasm for modern architecture and, somewhat ironically, a glowing view of Adolf Hitler.”2
Hitchcock and Johnson wrote The International Style which became highly influential in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Johnson worked in support of Detroit radio broadcaster Father Charles E. Coughlin who was known for characterizing the New Deal as the “Jew Deal.” (to be continued)
1 “Remembering” Philip Johnson
By Anne Applebaum
The Washington Post
February 2, 2005; Page a23
2 Dictionary of Art Historians
Lee Sorensen, ed.