This past Sunday, February 9, our auditorium was packed to the rafters for our lecture Monuments Man: The Walters’ Marvin Chauncey Ross. Michael Kurtz, National Archives expert, recounted how the “Monuments Men” tracked and located nearly five million European artworks and cultural treasures stolen by Hitler and the Nazis during WWII. Among them was Marvin Chauncey Ross (1904–1977), the Walters’ first Curator of Medieval Art and Subsequent Decorative Arts. Melissa Wertheimer, Walters’ archives assistant, also shared her fascinating discoveries while researching the Marvin Ross papers at the Walters.
More recently, our conservation department has discovered another important connection to the Monuments Men:
George Stout (George Clooney’s character in the movie) was the first conservator at Harvard’s Fogg Museum in 1928. Soon after, he was asked by the Walters’ first Board of Directors to help establish our own conservation lab for technical research in 1934. He also hired our first conservator, David Rosen, in ‘34. Stout was not paid for his time – he was the conservation lab’s first volunteer!
For further reading/listening on the Monuments Men:
- George Stout’s Legacy in Conservation by Francesca Brewer (scroll right to the 3rd photo of testing fire-proof painting varnishes on replica paintings in 1942)
- The Worcester Art Museum has a downloadable audio file of an interview with Stout describing his experience moving forty 10-ton trucks of art out of the Merkers salt mine in April 1945.
- The Monuments Man of the Walters Art Museum: Michael Kurtz and Melissa Wertheimer spoke about the life and work of Marvin Chauncey Ross by Kirsten Howe
- The Walters Art Museum’s Unsung Veteran
- The Walters Art Museum’s Conservation Stories