Celebrating the Real Monuments Men (and Women!)

Celebrating the Real Monuments Men (and Women!)

Director George Clooney's movie, The Monuments Men, releases today, Friday, February 7, 2014, and you can bet I'll be sitting in a theatre tonight.

The Monuments Men
Image: Columbia Pictures

Set during the darkest days of World War II, The Monuments Men tells a story that is little known outside the fine arts field. That Hitler, himself, was an artist and a highly accomplished one. In addition, he was determined to give the world the finest collection of art possible, in his soon to be built, Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. But, that was the problem. The art objects in the proposed collection already belonged to the world. They were owned by private collectors, museums and churches, all over Europe, before being looted as war booty by the Nazis.

We have the historical advantage of knowing the outcome of the War and that this never came to pass. There were many years, however, when the systematic pilfering of people, their lives, culture and art was steadily goose-stepping toward the emblazoned edification of the Third Reich. According to the book, Rescuing DaVinci, by Robert M. Edsel, upon which The Monuments Men is based, Hitler's culturally pathological vision resulted in art being stolen as soon as he got into power in 1933 and continued through 1945, the end of World War II.

Recognition for Cultural Heroes

Early on, those in fine arts disciplines from all over the world, many of whom had studied in Europe doing world tours throughout their academic years, were aware of Hitler's intent and the Nazi advance. This highly educated grapevine bore fruit as artistic appreciation, passion and concern gravitated into action, determined to stop the willful destruction of the world's cultural heritage.

Even before the United States entered the War in 1941, there were academic groups in this country working together to locate and protect European art collections. A growing national movement, however, resulted in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's formation of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas in 1943. This American group joined the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives or MFAA, formed by the Allies, also in 1943. And, these academic professors and historians risked their lives by putting on uniforms to join the Allied Forces, while going into combat areas for coordinated hands-on salvage efforts.

The Strongest Link: Rose Valland

The Monuments Men drama and story line couldn't be more powerful for any aficionado of the arts. I was captivated by it in graduate school as I was studying under one of the actual Monuments Men in my classes of Art Conservation at the Cooperstown Graduate Programs of Historic and Artistic Works, administered by the State University of New York at Oneonta. Conservator Sheldon Keck and his wife, also a Conservator, Caroline Keck, had begun the program in 1970, after initiating the academically degreed study of conserving artwork. Both the Kecks had studied at Harvard together in the 1930s and been in Europe to study the grand collections of the famous museums we all recognize.

After listening, in person, to Mr. Keck's stories of the MFAA, I am now remembering how he told of efforts to sandbag Da Vinci's Last Supper at The Santa Maria Delle Grazie, Milan, Italy. What a thrill to see a recreation of the sandbagging in the official trailer for The Monuments Men movie on the feature film's web site. It's so very realistic I am looking forward to the movie tonight. Realistic, that is, except for a few things.

The Monuments Men

In the movie, there are eight Monuments Men and we get to know them very well. They appear to be composites of the types of art professionals that worked together on the venture. But, the truth is, there were 345 Monuments Men AND WOMEN from 13 different countries, which gives more credence to the vast, endless amount of priceless artifacts held hostage. The seemingly insurmountable odds of locating, protecting and salvaging cavernous storage areas full of treasure were mitigated with combat courage and fortitude, by these fine arts troops. It is hard to imagine the legacy of trauma when one sees these familiar masterpieces in museums today, in sublime settings, on the way to pick up a postcard in the gift shop. You can see why, thinking back to Sheldon and Caroline Keck, I cannot wait to see this movie. In fact, what time is it now?

In closing, thank you, Robert M. Edsel, for your determination to bring this story to common consciousness with your obsessively researched books.  And, thank you, George Clooney, for being the cutest art historian, I have ever seen.

Oh, and sweetheart! *puttingonshades* George! How does it feel to be touted for your face, body and that snappy little uniform number, rather than for your vision as a Director?

Call me...so I can apologize.

 SunbonnetSmart.com is authored by a little bird who loves to lure unsuspecting BlogHer bloggers to her web site, daily newspaper,
The SunbonnetSmart.com NewsFlash, and Facebook Fan Page

Related Posts

How to Celebrate Chanukah: 8 Days of Joyous Gift Giving

Chanukah is one of my most favorite holidays of the year. Why? It is a happy ending story of heroism and cooperation. Also (and I swear this is secondary), it lasts for over a week and includes the traditional eight days of gift-giving.   Read more >

Sorry, I Won't Be Bringing My Dick to the Table

Guess what "BRDTTT" stands for? You won't get it, so I'll tell you. Bring Your Dick to the Table. Apparently the artist—and I use that term loosely—believes women can keep these expensive little pet cocks in their pockets to grab on to when they lose confidence in, for example, themselves in a business situation with men. A whole inch and a half of penile self-confidence right in the palm of our small, feminine hands.   Read more >

Stay in Touch

I recently heard Neil Diamond’s song "Sweet Caroline" and was inspired to write about touch. Love that song and must have listened to it at least a thousand times since it first came out in 1969. (On a personal note, at least one of those times was during a make-out session behind my parent’s house.) The part that is most moving in the song is when Neil sings about hands touching hands. Touch between two consenting adults is so romantic. In fact, while I am writing this, I feel like playing the song and lighting a scented candle. But, let me pull out of the mood, as I am approaching this from a health perspective and not my own personal romance needs.   Read more >

Recent Posts by SunbonnetSmart.com

Comments

In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.