Log in

I forgot my password

Latest topics
Our latest tweets
Free Webmaster ToolsSubmit Express

Monuments Man In War, Conservator In Peace

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Monuments Man In War, Conservator In Peace

Post by Mazy on Mon Mar 31 2014, 02:06

A unique person, fitting that George played him.

Monuments Man In War, Conservator In Peace

By CAROL KINO MARCH 19, 2014

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
George L. Stout, left, with other Monuments Men.
BY now, much of the moviegoing world is familiar with “The Monuments Men,” an art-historical film that sees George Clooney, Matt Damon and other stars swashbuckling around Europe during World War II, trying to save masterpieces like the Ghent Altarpiece and a Rembrandt self-portrait from bombs and the clutches of German and Russian troops. As the film opens, Mr. Clooney’s character is seen addressing President Roosevelt, trying to persuade him to help safeguard Europe’s cultural patrimony.

“While we must and will win this war,” he intones, “we should also remember the higher price that will be paid if the very foundation of modern society is looted or destroyed.” Near the end, having discovered Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges hidden by the Nazis in Austria’s Altaussee salt mine, he cocks his head at her jauntily and says, “Let’s get out of here.”

Mr. Clooney’s debonair, mustachioed role was inspired by the real-life exploits of George L. Stout, the American conservator who dreamed up the idea of sending art experts to war to protect Europe’s cultural treasures, as Robert M. Edsel recounts in the 2009 book on which the film was based. As depicted in the movie, Mr. Stout traveled to the front as part of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section of the Allied military effort, a detachment of eight men who tried to safeguard and repatriate monuments and artworks under fire. But like so many other veterans of the war effort, Mr. Stout rarely tooted his own horn about his wartime feats.

Stout was a pioneer of scientifically grounded art conservation. Credit Archives of American Art
In fact, his posthumous outing as a boots-on-the-ground war hero seems to have taken many conservators by surprise. In their world, Mr. Stout, who died in 1978, is already revered, but for a very different achievement: being a pioneer and promoter of the scientifically grounded conservation methods that define the field today.

In 1928, together with the chemist Rutherford J. Gettens, Mr. Stout established America’s first conservation research laboratory at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum, under the leadership of the museum’s director, Edward W. Forbes.

After the war, Mr. Stout became the founding president of the field’s first international professional association, now called the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (known in the field as the I.I.C.), established in 1950 to foster scientific training and help members share expertise across national borders.

He also produced seminal publications and textbooks, served as director of two major museums, helped establish America’s first graduate conservation program (at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts in 1960) and generally led a vast range of efforts to modernize and professionalize the way art was restored and preserved.

Without Mr. Stout, said Jerry Podany, the senior conservator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the I.I.C.’s president emeritus, conservation might have remained a matter of “dark magic” practiced by “a scattered group of restorers who worked with traditional recipes that didn’t have a good solid material science base.” Imagining the profession without Mr. Stout’s input, Mr. Podany added, “is like asking where doctors would be if they hadn’t started looking at biology and anatomy.”

Sarah Staniforth, the current I.I.C. president, who oversees historic properties for Britain’s National Trust, credits Mr. Stout with “setting up conservation departments and laboratories and training a whole generation of conservators in the United States.”

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Born in 1897 in Iowa, Mr. Stout enjoyed drawing as a boy, but his real involvement with art began only after World War I. Having served with the Army in a field hospital near Munich, he said in a 1978 interview conducted by the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, he returned home in 1919 and decided to study drawing and painting at the University of Iowa. After graduation, he taught drawing there for three years. But by 1926, he was at Harvard, pursuing a master’s in art history and working part time as a researcher in the university’s art museum, the Fogg. He was named director of the laboratory when it was created in 1928. At the time, conservation was typically a matter of artisanal spiffing up — cannily retouching paint that had peeled or eroded, carving a new arm for a broken marble sculpture, or trying to stop a wood panel from buckling by gluing heavy wood battens to the back (often without worrying if what was being done would cause new problems, or if the process could be reversed).

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
George Clooney, center, played a character based loosely on George Stout. Credit Claudette Barius/Columbia Pictures

The Fogg’s director, Mr. Forbes, was intent on promoting a more solid scientific grounding. By the time Mr. Stout arrived, the museum had already embarked upon a broad and systematic X-ray study of paintings, the better to understand their materials and compositional techniques. When Mr. Forbes urged him to work with a chemist, Mr. Stout hired another graduate student, Mr. Gettens. Soon after receiving their degrees, the two became an indefatigable — and effective — double act.

At first, Mr. Stout said in the 1978 Smithsonian interview, “we were interested primarily in materials, pigments, mediums and whatever went into the construction of a painting.” They analyzed pigment and varnish samples, with an eye to developing more durable artists’ materials. They designed a hypodermic needle, the microsectioner, that allowed them to extract microscopic samples from specific paintings, the better to understand how they were structured. Mr. Stout set about codifying the language used by conservators in condition reports. And together, the two pioneered the use of polymerized vinyl acetate (the transparent resin used in white glue), which for a time seemed a miracle solution to the problem of flaking paint.

But “what really put the Fogg on the map,” said Francesca G. Bewer, a research curator at the Harvard Art Museums who is the leading authority on the conservation department’s history, was when Mr. Stout and Mr. Gettens pieced together and stabilized some celebrated early Buddhist mud wall paintings that had been acquired in pieces by institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Royal Ontario Museum. And because they “felt accountable toward future generations,” Dr. Bewer added, they scrupulously documented what they’d done, becoming a driving force for improving documentation in other museums. (As America was entering the war, Mr. Stout also pulled together best practices for protecting and storing art, and he circulated the information to museums and the public — know-how that came in handy later when he was rescuing objects at the front.)

“Every problem that came to us was an adventure,” Mr. Stout said in another 1978 interview, this one for Museum News. (Nonetheless, as he also noted, this pragmatic approach didn’t always go over well. To some, he noted, “it was vulgar to talk about material and condition. That was as naughty as to inquire about the digestive system of an opera singer.”)
The Fogg was not the only museum in the world with a scientific research lab. The first was established in 1888 at the Royal Museums of Berlin, the second in 1920 by the British Museum, after its curators realized how badly their iron and bronze antiquities had decayed during World War I, when they had been stored in the humid tunnels of the London underground.
What set the Fogg apart was that it was a teaching institution. Its experiments ranged beyond its own holdings. And, to disseminate knowledge, Mr. Stout founded the first conservation journal, Technical Studies in the Field of the Fine Arts, which was published quarterly from 1932 to 1942, with him as editor. Mr. Gettens and Mr. Stout went on to publish some of their findings in the manual “Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopedia” in 1942. Even today “it remains a key source for our field,” said Joyce Hill Stoner, who teaches at the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Del., and also directs the preservation studies doctoral program at the University of Delaware in Newark. “There is nothing that has yet supplanted it,” Dr. Stoner added. “That’s extremely amazing to say about something from 1942.”

Mr. Stout was eager to promote international cooperation. He had represented America at the first world conservation conference, held by the International Museums Office of the League of Nations in Rome in 1930, and had strong contacts in Europe when the aerial bombardment and looting of its masterworks began. After the war, in an effort to keep communication flowing, he advocated creating an international body that could carry on the work of the Monuments Men in peacetime, which resulted in the 1950 foundation of the I.I.C. (Although the first meeting that led to this was at the Fogg, the new organization was instead based in London, on the theory that a midpoint between America and Continental Europe would prompt more participation.)

Meanwhile, back in America, Mr. Stout was setting up more conservation labs; the first at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, where he was named director in 1947, and the second at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, which he directed from 1955 until his retirement in 1970.

In 1975, he needled Dr. Stoner, then a young conservator herself, into establishing another important resource — the oral history archive that she now oversees for the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, a national association formed in 1973. Now composed of nearly 300 interviews, as well as conservators’ papers, it provides a useful adjunct to postgraduate work, with former students volunteering to interview their elders. “It’s one of the great ways to get young people grounded in the history of our field,” Dr. Stoner said. (The program draws interviewers from Europe, as well as America’s four graduate conservation programs, at New York University; the University of Delaware with the Winterthur Museum; the University of California, Los Angeles; and Buffalo State College, part of the State University of New York.)
In fact, Dr. Stoner said, generating major ideas, planning them precisely and encouraging other people to carry them out was Mr. Stout’s typical modus operandi. “He wasn’t someone who was up on a scaffolding saving great works of art,” she said. “He was a think tank. He looked at the big picture, internationally. He saw what publications were needed, what sort of conferences should be held. Then, in his quiet way, he would cause it to happen.”

And “while he would of course parry any depiction of himself as a hero,” Dr. Stoner added, “he would also get a good chuckle out of George Clooney playing him.”

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

Mazy
Achieving total Clooney-dom

Posts : 2883
Join date : 2012-11-03

Back to top Go down

Re: Monuments Man In War, Conservator In Peace

Post by LizzyNY on Mon Mar 31 2014, 03:42

Thanks, Mazy - This is a fascinating article. I had no idea Stout was so influential in the field of art preservation. It's amazing what one man can accomplish and the effect he can have.

LizzyNY
Clooney-looney!

Posts : 3676
Join date : 2013-08-28
Location : NY, USA

Back to top Go down

Re: Monuments Man In War, Conservator In Peace

Post by silly girl on Mon Mar 31 2014, 04:02

Very interesting....he seemed like an incredible man. Oh and just when I was reading this my local news announced that works of art were recovered and they mentioned Monuments Men....funny it was literally as I was reading this post..... Smile

silly girl
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Clooney I go!

Posts : 3299
Join date : 2011-02-28

Back to top Go down

Re: Monuments Man In War, Conservator In Peace

Post by LizzyNY on Mon Mar 31 2014, 04:20

No matter how bad the reviews of the movie were, MM is having a major effect in the real world. Just think how many people like us are trying to find out more about Mr. Stout and his accomplishments. And almost every day there's a news item about finding or restoring missing art. The issue is getting more attention than it has since the war ended. Well done, George!

LizzyNY
Clooney-looney!

Posts : 3676
Join date : 2013-08-28
Location : NY, USA

Back to top Go down

Re: Monuments Man In War, Conservator In Peace

Post by Mazy on Mon Mar 31 2014, 05:24

Right SG and Lizzy I am so pleased for our Hero he is also a very special man. He goes over and beyond to do more than is expected of someone. xxx

Mazy
Achieving total Clooney-dom

Posts : 2883
Join date : 2012-11-03

Back to top Go down

Re: Monuments Man In War, Conservator In Peace

Post by Sponsored content Today at 06:51


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum