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A Nation's Purpose - Perspectives No. 172

A Nation’s Purpose
Perspectives No. 172

Photo of Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton Inspecting Stolen Artwork
Lt. General Omar N. Bradley, Lt. General George S. Patton, Jr. and
General Dwight D. Eisenhower inspect the Stolen Paintings Stored in the Merkers Mine
on April 12, 1945. Also pictured in the center is Major Irving Leonard Moskowitz.
(National Archives and Records Administration)


   We've just seen the movie, The Monuments Men, an interesting look at the work of a group of men and women serving in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section established in 1943 of the Allied armies. They came from thirteen nations, most volunteering and most with expertise in the arts as curators, museum directors, artists, archivists and architects. Regardless of some inaccuracies in the film, it serves as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding civilization's cultural and artistic treasures and of the heroes who have sacrificed their lives to do so.
 
   The movie is based on book by Robert M. Edsel, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. The Hollywood version can never live up to the amazing real-life story.

   The scale of the looting was enormous, with an estimated 36,000 paintings stolen in France alone. The paintings that were stockpiled by the Nazis and later recovered included some of the most important masterpieces of history -  works by Da Vinci, van Eyck, Manet, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Klimt, Michelangelo and the list goes on and on. Many of the recovered paintings still show the marking of the Nazis who catalogued them meticulously. In addition many have the numbers used by the Monument Men to identify them. These identifiers increase their value when they go to auction today.

     In the Conservatory by Edouard Manet   Recovering In the Conservatory by Manet
             In the Conservatory, 1878-79 (PD US)                 Photograph of the Recovery of the Painting
                                Edouard Manet                                                        (National Archives)

      The Ghent Altarpiece by Jan and Hubert van Eyck   Photo of the Recovery of the Ghent Altarpiece
The Ghent Altarpiece -
Jan and Hubert van Eyck     Recovery of the Ghent Altarpiece (National Archives)

   Even more fascinating than watching the Hollywood adaptation is looking at the actual photographs now housed at the National Archives.

   "In the third year of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln ordered work to go ahead on the completion of the dome of the Capitol. When critics protested the diversion of labor and money from the prosecution of the war, Lincoln said, 'If people see the capitol going on, it is a sign that we intend this Union shall go on.' Franklin Roosevelt recalled this story in 1941 when, with the world in the blaze of war, he dedicated the National Gallery in Washington. And John Kennedy recalled both these stories when he asked for public support for the arts in 1962. Lincoln and Roosevelt, Kennedy said, 'understood that the life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of the nation, is very close to the center of a nation's purpose- and is a test of the quality of a nation's civilization."                          –Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

   For more information visit the Monuments Men Foundation.

Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

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