Robert M. Edsel is the author of the non-fiction books
Rescuing Da Vinci;
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and
the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, and
The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis.
He is the co-producer of the documentary film, The Rape of Europa, and Founder and President of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. Academy Award winner George Clooney will direct and star in a film based on Mr. Edsel's book, The Monuments Men, which is set for theatrical release in February 7, 2014.
Mr. Edsel was formerly a nationally ranked tennis player. In 1981, he began his business career in oil and gas exploration. His company, Gemini Exploration pioneered the use of horizontal drilling technology throughout the early 1990s. Gemini Exploration grew from a company with eight employees to almost 100. By 1995, Gemini had become the second most active driller of horizontal wells in the United States. In 1995, Robert Edsel sold the company’s assets to Union Pacific Resources Company. The following year he moved to Europe with his family.
While in Florence, he developed a great passion for art and architecture and became curious as to how so many of the monuments and great works of art survived the thefts and devastation of World War II. What began as a question evolved into an impassioned journey to tell the story of the Monuments Men, the unsung heroes who saved the world’s greatest art and cultural treasures for the benefit of civilization. By 2001, that journey had become a full-time job. Mr. Edsel has dedicated more than twelve years to painstaking and far-reaching research about the Monuments Men, which first culminated in the publishing of his book Rescuing Da Vinci, a detailed historical account which includes 460 photographs. Mr. Edsel is also the co-producer of the documentary film, The Rape of Europa, based on the award winning book of the same name by scholar Lynn Nicholas. The documentary, narrated by Joan Allen, was filmed in seven countries and opened in theatres across the U.S. in September 2007 followed by a DVD release. In November 2008 the film was broadcast on PBS and subsequently received two Emmy nominations. In addition, Mr. Edsel has created The Greatest Theft in History educational program, which includes the two-hour documentary film and seven hours of additional clips, as well as a companion website featuring lesson plans and other resources to easily utilize this material for classroom use.
In June 2009, Mr. Edsel published Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection by Nancy Yeide, an internationally recognized expert in World War II-era provenance research. The thoroughly documented catalogue is the first study devoted to Goering’s entire paintings collection.
In September 2009, Mr. Edsel’s second book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, a narrative telling of the story of the Monuments Men, was released by Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group, and was chosen as the History Book Club’s main selection that month. Current plans include publication of The Monuments Men in more than 25 languages.
In January 2012 George Clooney announced he would write, direct and star in the film version of Mr. Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men. The film, also starring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, and Bob Balaban, is scheduled for theatrical release in February 2014.
Robert Edsel’s third book, Saving Italy: the Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis, was published by W.W. Norton on May 6, 2013. Saving Italy focuses on two Monuments Men as they struggle to protect and save some of the world’s most iconic masterpieces, including Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Michelangelo’s David.
Mr. Edsel is also the Founder and Chairman of the Board for the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, (www.monumentsmenfoundation.org), a not-for-profit entity. The Foundation was one of ten recipients of the 2007 National Humanities Medal, an honor which was presented by President Bush during a ceremony held in the East Room of The White House. The National Humanities Medal is the highest honor given by the United States for excellence in the Humanities field, and honors individuals and groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities. The mission statement of the Foundation is as follows:
“To preserve the legacy of the unprecedented and heroic work of the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (“MFAA”) section, known as “Monuments Men,” during World War II, by raising public awareness of the importance of not only protecting and safeguarding civilization’s most important artistic and cultural treasures from armed conflict, but incorporating these expressions of man’s greatest creative achievements into our daily lives.”
Robert Edsel frequently speaks about this project and his ongoing journey. He is a dynamic speaker and regularly invited to lecture at prominent institutions including appearances at the Eisenhower Institute, the National Archives, the National Gallery of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, National World War II Museum, Yale University, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Eisenhower Presidential Library, among many others.
Mr. Edsel has a long history of philanthropic endeavors. He has been a supporter of the Children’s Medical Center, the Dallas Morning News Charities, and the United Way, amongst others. He dedicated nine years to service as a Trustee of St. Mark’s School of Texas, as Chairman of the Development Committee, a member of the Executive Committee and as President of the St. Mark’s Alumni Board (1987-1991). He has also served on the Board of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (Dallas Chapter), the Advisory Board of St. Philip’s School and Community Center, and as a volunteer at the Union Gospel Mission. Edsel founded the Cochran Chapel Homeowners Association in Dallas in 1993, serving as its President for the first three years. Additionally, in 2003, Edsel served as Chairman of a committee working to develop a master plan for the Turtle Creek corridor in Dallas. In February 2004, the Committee gifted the master plan to the City of Dallas. It now serves as the City’s master plan for the Turtle Creek greenbelt. Edsel also served on the Advisory Board of the Meadows Museum of Art, Dallas and the American Friends of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Robert Edsel served as a director of Polaris Minerals Corporation, a Vancouver-based company, from July 2002-October 2008. Polaris Minerals focuses on supplying construction aggregates to coastal urban markets on the western seaboard of North America. He was a member of the Compensation and Corporate Governance Committees.
While living in Italy, Robert Edsel was a founding Board Member of Friends of Florence. In addition to writing the group’s by-laws, he also served as Vice President for the first two years. Mr. Edsel is still involved with the group and serves on their Council of Honorary Advisors.
In April 2008, Mr. Edsel was a recipient of the President’s Call to Service Award. This award is presented to individuals by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, in recognition and appreciation of their commitment to strengthening the Nation and for making a difference through volunteer service.
In November 2008, Mr. Edsel was presented with the “Hope for Humanity Award” from the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. One recipient is selected each year and honored for their dedication to promoting tolerance, education, and understanding, and to reducing prejudice. In 2009, Mr. Edsel became a member of the Advisory Board for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.
In January 2010, Robert Edsel was invited to become a trustee of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA, and serves on the Executive Committee, among others. The museum was founded by renowned historian, author and educator, Dr. Stephen Ambrose and opened on June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of D-Day.
In March 2011, Robert Edsel was presented with the Texas Medal of Arts Award by Governor Rick Perry. Other recipients included actor Bill Paxton, actress Marcia Gay Harden, journalist Bob Schieffer and musicians ZZ Top. The honor, inspired by the National Medal of Arts, is awarded to Texas leaders and luminaries in the arts and entertainment industry for creative excellence and exemplary talents.
In April 2011, Robert Edsel received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from St. Mark’s School of Texas. The Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes achievement of exceptional nature in any field, vocational or voluntary, covering an entire career. Because the award is defined by its recipients, it has been given sparingly. Previous recipients include Tommy Lee Jones (class of 1965) and H. Ross Perot, Jr. (class of 1977).
For more information about Robert M. Edsel or the Monuments Men, please visit www.monumentsmen.com. For more information about the Monuments Men Foundation, please visit www.monumentsmenfoundation.org.
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