February 5, 2014

Monuments Men Feature Film: George Clooney's new movie involves Nazi-looted art and seeing it is strictly professional

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

Two more days until the new George Clooney movie on the Monuments Men. There are serious preparations to be done -- re-watch "The Rape of Europa" on Netflix; finish reading Robert E. Edsel's book on The Monuments Men (available in print, on audible, and in iBooks); peruse Lynn Nicholas' book The Rape of Europa (paperback and iBooks); and then watch tonight's show featuring ARCA founder Noah Charney on National Geographic, "Hunting Hitler's Treasures Stolen Treasures: the Monuments Men".

Nicholas' The Rape of Europa provides an overall view of the Nazi efforts to dominate and claim culture for the Third Reich, including the confiscation of "degenerate art" from German museums; theft from Jewish private collections; and the attempted obliteration of Slavic and Russian culture. Robert E. Edsel co-produced the film on Nichols' book and wrote Rescuing Da Vinci, a photographic essay on the Nazis' attempt to steal Europe's art.

Here's a link to an article published in the Harvard Gazette, "A monument to saved art: Harvard-trained conservators were key players in tracking, rescuing priceless works in World War II (written by Edward Mason, Harvard Correspondent)". The article, which covers a panel with Edsel and a Skype call from actor Matt Damon, points out that Clooney plays a fictional character.
The “Monuments Men” belonged to the U.S. Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section. Their ranks included Lincoln Kirstein ’30, the founder of the New York City Ballet; Paul Sachs, Class of 1900, a member of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, which recruited many of the team’s members; and Stout. Born in 1897, Stout was a tall, dashing man with a pencil-thin mustache ­— not unlike actor George Clooney, who in the film plays the Stout-like team leader, Frank Stokes. Clooney also produced and directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay. Stout helped pioneer the field of art conservation while a graduate assistant at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum. Long before World War II, he had the vision to see the risk aerial bombing and firebombing posed to art, Edsel said. Stout had spent the early ’40s pushing for a national art conservation plan. The Allies and Stout knew that bombs were hardly the only danger to art. The Nazis engaged in “premeditated, organized looting never before seen in war,” Edsel said. The hunger their leaders displayed for European art put Western treasures at risk.
Other articles to read while you wait for the George Clooney movie on Nazi-looted art and the team of middle-aged art professionals who tried to save Europe's culture:

Anna Goldenberg interviews MM's Harry Ettlinger in The Jewish Daily Forward.

"Monuments Men" is a popular phrase for the MFAA section, the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, which did include women as this article by Tom Mashberg points out here in The New York Times.

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