Robert Edsel's Blog

Blog entries for the ‘Finding the Monuments Men’ Category

67th Anniversary of an Amazing Day in History: April 12,1945

April 12th, 2012 | 3:27 pm

Left to Right: Generals Bradley, Patton, and Eisenhower (Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Having heard about the extraordinary discovery of most all of Nazi Germany’s gold reserves and paper currency, along with its vast cultural wealth from Berlin’s greatest museums and libraries, in a salt mine in Merkers, Germany, Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley left SHAEF headquarters in Rheims, France and made a several day visit to see it firsthand. As the Monuments Men, led by George Stout, were urgently crating the works of art for removal from the mine, the generals descended in a rickety elevator manned by a lone German operator.

Their sense of disconnection was palpable: billions of dollars (in today’s currency) of gold bars and bagged coins sat stacked in one chamber adjacent to some of the world’s greatest works of art. Chests filled with gold fillings pulled from the mouths of murdered victims of the Nazi genocide sat idle, not yet smelted into bars to sit atop the Reichsbank horde. Suitcases of silverware, another reminder of property stolen along with the lives of the owners, lined several walls.

General Eisenhower at Ohrdruf Concentration Camp (Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Later that afternoon, the generals visited Ohrdruf, the first Nazi work camp liberated by American forces. Strewn before them were the corpses of the dead and emancipated figures of those near death. General Patton, old “Blood and Guts”, had to lean against the side of one of the bunkhouse sheds as he was sick to his stomach from the horrors and stench of what he was witnessing.

President Franklin Roosevelt attending Yalta Conference in February 1945, less than 2 months before he died. (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

After dinner, as the generals returned to their respective tents, General Patton overheard on the BBC the announcement of President Roosevelt’s death earlier that day. At age 63, 12 years into his presidency, having led the nation through its most perilous fiscal crisis and a world war, Roosevelt was gone. He did not live to see the fruits of his leadership – victory – which would follow 26 days later in Europe, and 125 days later in Japan.

April 12: a day that had momentous implications for our nation, the world, and the Monuments Men.

 

(For a more detailed account of this story, please read The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History).

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MONUMENTS MEN NEWSLETTER – EISENHOWER AUDIO RECORDING DISCOVERED

April 27th, 2011 | 11:25 am

General Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, departing the Met.
(photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries.)

The Monuments Men Foundation is proud to announce the discovery of an audio recording of General Eisenhower speaking about the importance of art and its protection during war.

The speech was delivered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on April 2, 1946 at an event in which General Eisenhower was presented with an Honorary Life Fellowship from the museum with a citation that read:

“To Dwight D. Eisenhower, soldier, diplomat and statesman, through whose irreplaceable art treasures were saved for future generations.”

Award recipients with Texas Governor Rick Perry, including Bill Paxton,
Bob Schieffer, Barbara Smith Conrad and ZZ Top.

Other articles in this newsletter: the announcement of a new book coming out in Spring of 2013, Remembering Maria Altmann, and Robert Edsel presented with Texas Medal of Arts.

Click On the Link to Read The Monuments Men Newsletter

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AUDIO OF EISENHOWER SPEECH AT MET FOUND

April 1st, 2011 | 10:18 am

General Eisenhower Talking at Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 2, 1946 about the importance of saving art and culture during World War II.

An amazing discovery of historical significance was recently found, an audio recording from April 2, 1946 that has General Eisenhower specifically talking about his decision to safeguard the world’s cultural treasures during World War II. Eisenhower gave this speech at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when he was honored with a life fellowship. His words reiterate both his actions during the war and America’s actions after the war in dealing with cultural items, both domestically and internationally. It is a unique occurrence to hear Eisenhower speak only on the topic of art.

The Associate Press wrote an article that explaining the finding and its significance that is running on Yahoo! News. Click the link to read the article.

You can listen to Eisenhower’s entire speech on the newly redesigned Monuments Men Foundation website, www.monumentsmenfoundation.org.

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ROBERT M. EDSEL SPEAKING IN PINEHURST NORTH CAROLINA ABOUT THE MONUMENTS MEN

October 28th, 2010 | 5:05 pm

Event: Ruth Pauley Lecture Series

Date: Tuesday, November 2nd at 7:30pm

Admission: Open to the Public and Free. Book Signing Following Event.

Location: Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College

Address:
3395 Airport Road
Pinehurst, NC 28374-8778
(910) 692-6185
Click Here for Directions

Description:

As Hitler was attempting to conquer the western world, his armies were methodically pillaging the finest art in Europe, from Michelangelo and Da Vinci to Van Eycks and Vermeers, all stolen for the Führer. The Monuments Men had a mandate from President Roosevelt and the support of General Eisenhower to try to recover these treasures, but were given no resources or real authority. In a race against time, each man gathered scraps and hints to construct his own treasure map . Robert M. Edsel is the author of the non-fiction book, Rescuing Da Vinci and also The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. He is widely recognized as a leading authority on the history of the Nazis looting of Europe during World War II and the efforts of the Monuments Men to recover these lost treasures.

Click Here for More Details

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REMEMBERING THE PASSING OF A GREAT HERO: CHARLES PARKHURST

June 25th, 2010 | 2:12 pm

Tomorrow marks the passing of a truly remarkable man and a key figure for the Monuments Men, Monuments Officer Charles Parkhurst. His contribution to the Monuments Men and to the cultural heritage to America cannot be measured. Below is the blog we posted the day of his death in 2008 and here is a link to his biography on the www.monumentsmen.com website.

Lieutenant Charles Parkhurst, 1913-2008. Photo Courtesy of Charles Parkhurst Collection.

One of the greats, Charles Parkhurst, has died. He was 95 years of age.  Charles had an incredibly distinguished career as a museum director, curator, and art historian which spanned more than 50 years.  During those years he worked at the National Gallery of Art, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Albright-Knox AA Gallery in Buffalo, and the Princeton University Art Museum, among others.  He was also an outstanding educator of art with teaching positions at Oberlin College and Williams College.

But we will forever remember and honor Chuck for his service not just to our nation as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War ll, but his critically important work as a Monuments Officer.  Beginning in May 1945 Parkhurst served as the Deputy Chief of the Seventh Army MFAA section of the U.S. Military Government in Germany. He helped coordinate the numerous tasks of the Monuments Men in post-war Germany centered on restitutions of the hundreds of thousand of stolen works of art and other cultural belongings stolen by Hitler and the Nazis and located by the Monuments Men.

But Charles Parkhurst’s service was much greater. In addition to standing with his fellow Monuments Men on the principle that no works of art should be removed from Germany,  in the face of great controversy, he also played a key role in jump-starting cultural life in Germany after the war by creating exhibitions which allowed local citizens to see works of art even though German museums were closed due to damage during the war.

For his wartime efforts as a Monuments Officer, Charles was named a Chevalier, Legion of Honor by France.

Photo taken on my visit with Charles Parkhurst in 2006. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.

Charles was so fortunate to have a magnificent lady and art scholar in her own right, for his wife, Carol, and a wonderful family.  It was one of the personal highlights of my work these past 7 years having the opportunity to meet Chuck and Carol two years ago at their charming home in Amherst.  Knowing he was ill, and of course the age of all the Monuments Men and women, underscored the sense of urgency to our effort to seek Senate and the House of Representatives support for our Resolution honoring the men and women of the Monuments, Fine Art and Archives section.

We will miss Charles Parkhurst, and all he stood for in the education, appreciation and protection of art and culture, enormously.  Our condolences go out to his family and numerous close friends.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ANNE POPHAM BELL!

June 20th, 2010 | 12:00 pm

At Winfield House, residence of the Ambassador of the United States to the United Kingdom, with Anne Olivier Bell and Ambassador Robert H. Tuttle. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection.

Today is British Monuments Woman Anne Olivier Popham Bell’s 94th Birthday. Anne is the only living female member of the Monuments section that we have located.  In December 2007, I had the honor of presenting Anne with a flag of the United States which was flown over the United States Capitol in her honor, as well as a gold leaf copy of the Congressional resolution that was passed on June 6, 2007 in recognition of the heroic efforts of the Monuments Men. U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Robert H. Tuttle and his wife were also in attendance, as well as Anne’s family. It was truly a moving and memorable day. You may read more about Anne in her biography below.

Anne Popham Bell. Photo Coutesy of Anne Popham Bell.

MFAA Officer Anne Popham Bell. Photo Courtesy of Anne Popham Bell.

Anne Olivier Popham Bell (b. 1916)

Civilian Officer Grade 2, British Element, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA)

Anne Olivier Popham was well prepared for work with the MFAA.  From 1934 to 1937, she studied art history at the Courtauld Institute which, combined with her family’s background in art, made her an ideal candidate.  Her father, A.E. ‘Hugh’ Popham, was a distinguished authority on Italian drawings and Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, whose collection was transferred for safety to Wales in advance of the German Blitzkrieg on London.  Popham’s ‘war work’ began in 1941 when she joined the Ministry of Information as a research assistant in the Photographs and Publications Divisions.  Popham’s focus centered around the production of informative booklets on the British war effort published by His Majesty’s Stationary Office.  In 1945 she was transferred to the MFAA Branch of the Control Commission for Germany, and in October was stationed at Bünde in Westphalia, the Divisional Headquarters where she coordinated the Branch officers’ work.  Popham’s diaries detail her daily activities during this time and are preserved at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Following her return home from Germany in 1947, Popham joined the Art Department of the Arts Council of Great Britain, where she engaged in the preparation of major exhibitions in London and the provinces, and edited their authoritative catalogues.  In 1952 she married Quentin Bell, who later became Professor of History and Theory of Art at both Leeds and Sussex Universities.  He was the son of Clive and Vanessa Bell (the artist), central figures in the ‘Bloomsbury Group’, of which Vanessa’s sister, Virginia Woolf, was a participant.  After raising three children, Popham worked with her husband on research for his 1972 biography of his aunt, Virginia Woolf, and thereafter undertook the editing of Woolf’s complete Diary (five volumes) for which Popham was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and given two Honorary Doctorates.

Anne Olivier Bell currently lives in Sussex close to Charleston, the Bell family home.  The Charleston Trust, of which she is senior Trustee, has overseen the restoration of the historic house, which is now open to the public.  She is the only known surviving British member of the MFAA, and is still actively associated with the Bloomsbury Group.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MONUMENTS MAN MARK SPONENBURGH

June 15th, 2010 | 5:07 pm

Today is Monuments Man Mark Sponenburgh’s 94th birthday. He is one of only nine Monuments Men and women who are still with us, so needless to say this is a day worth celebrating. Mark is a great man I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the past few years. You can read more about his accomplished life in his biography below.

Mark Ritter Sponenburgh (b. 1916)

A sculptor, historian, and educator, Mark Sponenburgh began his service with the MFAA in late 1945. He was previously enlisted in the Corps of Engineers as part of the 9th Engineers Command. Sponenburgh worked with the cartography section dictating and reproducing maps as the command prepared for D-Day and then crossed France, Holland, Belgium, and the Rhineland. After joining the MFAA, he was initially stationed at the Wiesbaden Collecting Point where he saw the famed Bust of Nefertiti, among other treasures, and was then assigned to the Alt Aussee mine. While at Alt Aussee, Sponenburgh supervised the transportation and packing of artworks and led the first armed convoy to the Munich Collecting Point, driven through the snowy, narrow roads of the Alps.

Prior to World War II, he was graduated from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940 and then began working as a sculptor. When he completed his military service, Sponenburgh attended the Ecôle des Beaux Arts in Paris. He later received an AM from the University of Cairo in 1952 and his Master’s from the University of London in 1957. In 1970, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the National Council of Arts.

As a sculptor, Sponenburgh focuses the subjects of his works on the relationships of nature to art, in particular those of animals, the sea, and natural phenomena. Found objects and natural materials of the northwest also repeatedly appear in his sculptures. One of his earliest works, Madonna in Walnut, received an award in 1941 at the annual exhibition of Michigan artists, and may now be seen at the Detroit Institute of Art. Sponenburgh’s career has continued for many decades; Eternus, a bronze relief sculpture of waves, was installed in 1985 at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Oregon, and he is currently working on a marble portrait and as well as designing his garden, which celebrates the sea.

Sponenburgh also had a remarkable career as an educator. From 1946 to 1956 he was a professor at the University of Oregon and then spent the next year as a visiting professor at the Royal College of Arts in London. In 1958, Sponenburgh received a Fulbright research fellowship and taught in Egypt and Pakistan, then taught for two more years at the National College of Arts, Pakistan. He returned to Oregon in 1961 and embarked on a lengthy career at Oregon State University, where he was named Professor Emeritus in 1984. A colleague at OSU referred to him as a “superb lecturer and teacher, and most highly respected by undergraduate and graduate students alike.” Today, the university maintains the Sponenburgh Travel Award, which is awarded to an advanced graduate student every year and endowed by Dr. Sponenburgh. In 1990, Mark and Janeth Hogue Sponenburgh donated their art collection to the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon http://www.willamette.edu/museum_of_art/collections/ . The collection consists of over 250 Ancient, European, Middle Eastern, and Asian art objects. Dr. Sponenburgh currently resides in Seal Rock, Oregon.

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65th ANNIVERSARY OF AN AMAZING DAY IN HISTORY: APRIL 12, 1945

April 12th, 2010 | 3:25 pm

Left to Right: Generals Bradley, Patton, and Eisenhower (Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Having heard about the extraordinary discovery of most all of Nazi Germany’s gold reserves and paper currency, along with its vast cultural wealth from Berlin’s greatest museums and libraries, in a salt mine in Merkers, Germany, Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley left SHAEF headquarters in Rheims, France and made a several day visit to see it firsthand.  As the Monuments Men, led by George Stout, were urgently crating the works of art for removal from the mine, the generals descended in a rickety elevator manned by a lone German operator.

Their sense of disconnection was palpable:  billions of dollars (in today’s currency) of gold bars and bagged coins sat stacked in one chamber adjacent to some of the world’s greatest works of art. Chests filled with gold fillings pulled from the mouths of murdered victims of the Nazi genocide sat idle, not yet smelted into bars to sit atop the Reichsbank horde.  Suitcases of silverware, another reminder of property stolen along with the lives of the owners, lined several walls.

General Eisenhower at Ohrdruf Concentration Camp (Photo Courtesy of National Archives)

Later that afternoon, the generals visited Ohrdruf, the first Nazi work camp liberated by American forces. Strewn before them were the corpses of the dead and emancipated figures of those near death.  General Patton, old “Blood and Guts”, had to lean against the side of one of the bunkhouse sheds as he was sick to his stomach from the horrors and stench of what he was witnessing.

President Franklin Roosevelt attending Yalta Conference in February 1945, less than 2 months before he died. (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)

After dinner, as the generals returned to their respective tents, General Patton overheard on the BBC the announcement of President Roosevelt’s death earlier that day.  At age 63, 12 years into his presidency, having led the nation through its most perilous fiscal crisis and a world war, Roosevelt was gone. He did not live to see the fruits of his leadership – victory – which would follow 26 days later in Europe, and 125 days later in Japan.

April 12:  a day that had momentous implications for our nation, the world, and the Monuments Men.  (For a more detailed account of this story, please read The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History).

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THE VISIONARY GIFT

March 17th, 2010 | 10:54 am

National_Gallery_of_Art_DC_

National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Images)

When visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington, it’s hard to believe it is only 69 years old.  Its majestic appearance and rich collections suggest a museum many centuries in age.  How could all these artistic treasures be assembled so late in history?  Who had the vision to suggest that the United States finally have a national collection for the people such as those in nearly all European countries?

National Gallery of Art West Side of Building (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Images)

National Gallery of Art West Side in the 1940s (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Images)

In fact, hard as it is to believe, much of the success of the National Gallery of Art is due to the generosity of one man:  Andrew W. Mellon. Mellon was a successful financier before serving as the Secretary of the Treasury from 1921-1932 and U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1932-1933. He began collecting art, mostly old master painters and sculpture, during World War l.  By the late 1920s he had developed a vision that would become the National Gallery of Art, a collection of the world’s greatest works of art for the benefit of its citizens.   However, while he continued to add to his extraordinary collection, his plans for the museum and the donations he would make that would assure its construction were kept secret.

Mello-3

Andrew Mellon (Image Courtesy of National Gallery of Art)

In 1930, with the world firmly in the grip of the Depression, Mellon seized on one of the greatest buying opportunities in the history of collecting: a series of purchases from Russia’s greatest museum, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, a once in a lifetime event driven by orders from Soviet Premier Stalin to museum officials to raise cash by selling art. This despicable decision by Stalin was received with shock by museum officials, but fear of the repercussions outweighed any alternative.  In the course of a year Mellon purchased 21 paintings, the likes of which would never have been available but for these extraordinary circumstances, including Raphael’s Alba Madonna and Jan van Eyck’s The Annunciation.  It was the coup of Mellon’s collecting career.

The Opening Ceremony at the National Gallery of Art persided by President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Opening Ceremony at the National Gallery of Art presided by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Image Courtesy of National Gallery of Art)

In 1936 Mellon wrote President Roosevelt and formally offered to build the National Gallery of Art building and donate his collection to the nation.  Ultimately 121 paintings and 21 pieces of sculpture from Mellon’s collection were gifted.  Not only did he provide $15 million to build the building, but he also stipulated that it would not bear his name.  This was not only an extraordinary act of selflessness but also a strategically wise decision because Mellon knew he had to enlist the support of his peers to also promise their respective collections to the National Gallery of Art.  Putting his name on the building was something he understood would make that task difficult if not impossible. By excluding his name from the building Mellon was empowered to persuade others, including Samuel H. Kress, Chester Dale, and Joseph P. Widener, to donate or commit their collections to the nation.  In the coming years these great collectors and many others made gifts of collections and funds, a tradition that continues to this day.

"Ginevra de Benci", Leonardo da Vinci, 38.8 cm × 36.7 cm (15.3 in × 14.4 in), oil on wood, 1476 (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Images)

Leonardo da Vinci, "Ginevra de Benci", 1476, Oil on Wood, 38.8 cm × 36.7 cm (15.3 in × 14.4 in) (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Images)

Mellon also established a trust, donating $10 million, to fund the Gallery during those early years.  This was just the beginning of almost a century of philanthropy by the Mellon family as Mellon’s son, Paul, and daughter, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, continued their father’s support with generous financial donations as well as works of art.  In fact, the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in an American collection, Ginevra de’ Benci, is at the National Gallery of Art, made possible by the Ailsa Mellon Bruce fund.

Robert M. Edsel speaking at The National Gallery of Art in January 2010. (Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection)

Robert M. Edsel speaking at The National Gallery of Art in January 2010. (Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection)

The National Gallery of Art is one of our nation’s greatest cultural centers and is full of visitors every day of the year but for the two it is closed. The facilities are state of the art and beautiful to admire. Anyone wanting to see one of the world’s great collections of art need not travel further than Washington, D.C. For those seeking a great example of selfless giving, study Andrew Mellon and his role in making this once lofty vision a reality.

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THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON WORLD WAR II

March 16th, 2010 | 11:03 am

WWII-Conference-3

The International Conference on World War II will be held from March 18th – 20th in New Orleans, Louisiana, sponsored by the National World War II Museum. This 3-day event will consist of keynote addresses, lectures, conferences, and roundtable discussions.

Robert Edsel is giving the keynote address on Friday, March 19 from 8:30am – 10:00, after which he will be discussing Art & War at 10:30, with Marc Pachter and Rick Atkinson. Some of the other topics that will be discussed during the conference are Allies at War, Death from Above, Espionage, Normandy, and War Crime Trials. There will also be an opportunity to meet Robert and the other speakers at a roundtable reception on Friday evening. Included with conference passes is the chance to view the museum’s exhibits as well as Beyond All Boundaries – the museum’s newest multi-experiential film at the Solomon Victory Theater. This film is truly a not to be missed visual experience.

3-Generals

If you are interested in attending this conference, please go to www.ww2conference.com to register on-line, or call 1-877-813-3329 x 500 or 504-527-6012 x 500. We look forward to seeing you there this week.

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