Robert Edsel's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Williams College’


July 2nd, 2010 | 2:05 pm

James N. Wood, long time director of the Art Institute of Chicago (1980-2004) and more recently President and CEO of the Getty Trust, died recently.  I met Jim Wood more than 3 years ago at the memorial service for one of his great mentors, Monuments Man S. Lane Faison, Jr, his college professor of art history at Williams College.  Jim was one of a group of prominent students who went on to lead some of our nation’s greatest museums including Rusty Powell (Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), Jack Lane (former Director of the Dallas Museum of Art), and Kirk Varnadoe Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art.

I remember well the moving story Jim Wood told about Lane visiting the Art Institute for a tour of some of the great works and the dramatic moment that brought Lane to his feet when standing before a great work of art.  The esteem and affection this once student felt for his old teacher was still evident after all those years.  Everyone was brought to tears as the telling of this story came alive.

Jim Wood leaves a lengthy and worthy legacy of scholarship and contribution to the arts at these two and other institutions.  His connection to the Monuments Men was considerable as many of his peers once served the MFAA; others studied and worked for men and women who were Monuments officers.  These first line connections to this great part of our history are something to cherish while we still have them.  They underscore the urgency with which we continue to gather all aspects of the story of the Monuments Men.

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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 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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March 2nd, 2010 | 1:57 pm


Ken Lindsay (1919 - 2009) (Photo Courtesy of Agon Arts & Entertainment)

A year ago today, the world lost a great man – Monuments Man Ken Lindsay. His legacy still lives on at the Monuments Men Foundation.

Ken Lindsay was as polite and kind a person as he was passionate and articulate about art. When I first met him and his lovely wife Christine, I was so captivated to hear him recount his experiences as a soldier and Monuments Man that I laid my pen down and just listened. The twinkle in his eyes belied his age, for his words were clear, precise and empowered with youthful energy.

Lindsay-RME-3(Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Edsel Collection)

Like many MFAA personnel, Lindsay did not initially join the military as a Monuments officer, rather he was drafted and first served with signal intelligence at SHAEF headquarters. He marched through France with the U.S. 3rd Army and was later appointed to the Wiesbaden Collecting Point under the directorship of Monuments officer Capt. Walter Farmer. Because Lindsay was not an officer, he was not among the signatories to the “Wiesbaden Manifesto,” a document which expressed opposition to the removal of German-owned artworks to the United States for safekeeping. However, he did strongly agree with its sentiment.


Sgt. Kenneth Lindsay gazing at the ancient Egyptian Bust of Queen Nefertiti (Photo Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)

One of his most memorable experiences at Wiesbaden was the uncrating of the ancient Egyptian Bust of Queen Nefertiti (seen in the photo on the left), which had been evacuated for safekeeping from the Berlin museums towards the end of the war. Lindsay recalled the moment the bust was removed from its protective casing: “Within an instant, every man in there fell hopelessly in love with her – that face – absolutely beautiful.”


Ken Lindsay reading (Photo Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)

After the war, Lindsay was a professor of art history at Williams College, Williamstown, MA. He left in 1951 to become professor and later chair of the art history department at Harpur College, Binghamton University (SUNY) until 1990. During his retirement, Dr. Lindsay remained busy. He wrote an article about the Wiesbaden Manifesto and the controversial decision to transfer German-owned artworks to the United States, entitled “Official Art Seizure Under the Military Cloak,” in the journal Art, Antiquity, and Law (vol. 3, no. 2, June 1998).