By JOHN ROCKWELL
ADOLF HITLER hated Modernist painting. He was convinced it was a Jewish plot (Jewish painters, Jewish dealers, Jewish collectors). But whatever the racial origins of the artists, he thought their works were ugly and perverted.
''It is not the function of art to wallow in dirt for dirt's sake, never its task to paint men only in a state of decomposition, to draw cretins as symbols of motherhood, to picture hunch-backed idiots as representatives of manly strength,'' he orated at a decadent-art exhibition in Dresden in 1935, as quoted in Frederic Spotts's new book, ''Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics.'' ''There really are men,'' he went on, ''who in principle feel meadows to be blue, the heavens green, clouds sulphur-yellow.''
Let us now imagine that Hitler did not die in his Berlin bunker in 1945 but was captured by the Allies and imprisoned. And not imprisoned in any ordinary jail cell, but one tricked up in earnest imitation of what were then the latest Modernist and Surrealist paintings. His cell would be a distorted room like those of Kandinsky and Klee, with geometric drawings on the walls to make him sick to his stomach.