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February 13, 2014

Saving The World’s Great Art: The Real Monuments Men

The Philadelphia Inquirerv

Philadelphia (AP) Nothing really prepared sculptor Walter K. Hancock for what he saw in the towns of Europe as Allied forces closed in on Germany in 1945.

Siegen, east of Bonn, was a rubble field.

``The city had been solidly bombed for three months,’’ Hancock wrote in his memoir, A Sculptor’s Fortunes. ``Corpses had been cleared away, but in one place I noticed a pool of blood with an American helmet beside it.’’

In this grisly and devastated place, Hancock also found some of the greatest of all European treasures.

Entering an old tunnel, he came upon an incredible trove, works by Rembrandt and Rubens, Van Dyck and Delacroix, Van Gogh, Cranach, and Cezanne, some 400 paintings plucked up and squirreled away by the Nazis.

Here also were Charlemagne’s reliquary and the original manuscript of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6.

These ``most precious objects’’ were secured under the direction of Hancock, a bona fide ``Monuments Man,’’ one of about 345 men and women charged with saving Europe’s cultural treasures from the ravages of war and Nazi pillaging.

Photo: Lt. Daniel J. Kern and German conservator Karl Sieber examining Jan van Eyck’s
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, also known as the Ghent Altarpiece (1432).

The opening last Friday of ``The Monuments Men,’’ the movie starring George Clooney, provides a moment to recall some of Philadelphia’s soldiers and civilians who, like Hancock, headed for the battlefields during and immediately after the war to save art. Just as important, it gives an opportunity to note that some art now on view in the city was rescued by Monuments Men.

One of the most distinguished sculptors of his generation, Hancock attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and taught sculpture there from 1929 to 1967. His public works can be found all over the country, including in Philadelphia, and the academy has several of his sculptures on permanent display in its galleries.

In Philadelphia, his most prominent public installation is the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial at 30th Street Station, dedicated in 1952. Another imposing Hancock - John Paul Jones, telescope in hand - stands behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

When the United States entered the war, Hancock enlisted in the Army and was trained as a medic. But he requested a transfer to the Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section—established to protect and recover Europe’s cultural treasures as the war entered its climactic phase.

In 1943, he was sent to London, and after the Normandy invasion, he headed for France and Germany, one of a minority of Monuments Men to work with an eye out for bullets and enemies. Most of his colleagues joined the fray after VE Day. Some were civilians; some were in military service.

Hancock, who died in 1998, is the most famous of Philadelphia’s Monuments Men. Archaeologist Langdon Warner, director of the Art Museum from 1917 to 1923 and a scholar of Asian art, served as a consultant to the military’s Arts and Monuments Section for Japan in 1946.

Before that, he had advocated strongly for protecting Nara and Kyoto during bombings. Japanese citizens in those two ancient capitals were so grateful a small shrine was built in Warner’s honor in Kyoto and a memorial tablet honoring him now stands in Nara.

``He was very modest about his role,’’ said Cathy Herbert, coordinator of collections research and documentation at the Art Museum. But in Japan, Warner, who died in 1955, was considered a hero.

Calvin Hathaway, curator of decorative arts at the museum during two periods (the last ended in 1973), served as a Monuments Man from 1943 to 1946. Hathaway, an Army captain, is best remembered for his work uncovering a vast trove of Nazi-appropriated art near Kitzb¸hel, Austria.

Among the objects found there was Benvenuto Cellini’s famous gold saltcellar, La Saliera, now valued at about $60 million. It had been taken from the Vienna Kunsthistorische Museum.

Hathaway died in 1973.

Philadelphia is also home to at least three works of art seized by Nazis during the war. The most familiar is Gustave Courbet’s Nude Reclining by the Sea (1868), a gift to the Art Museum in 1963 from collector Louis Stern.

Before World War Two, the painting belonged to Parisian dealer Paul Rosenberg, who fled Paris in advance of the German occupation. He stored his paintings in a Bordeaux bank vault, which Nazis raided in 1941.

The Courbet caught the eye of Hermann Goering, second only to Hitler in his voracious appetite for art. Goering had the painting taken to his estate in Veldenstein, northeast of Nuremberg, which was crammed with looted art.

Photo: Sgt. Harry Ettlinger, right, and Lt. Dale Ford, U.S. soldiers who served as Monuments Men, are shown in 1945 inspecting a Rembrandt in a salt mine in Heilbronn, where the Nazis stored stolen art.

As the Allies closed in, Goering sought to save what he could, shipping boxcars full of art to the south.

When the train carrying the Courbet reached Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, pillaging villagers in search of liquor overwhelmed it.

Monuments Man Bernard Taper described the scene: ``The peasantry that came swarming had heard the train was loaded with schnapps, and the first-comers got their fill thereof. Those who came later had to be satisfied with things like a school of Rogier van der Weyden painting, a 13th-century Limoges reliquary, four late Gothic wood statues, and other such baubles - whatever they could grab’’ - including the Courbet.

Taper and other Monuments Men went door-to-door in Berchtesgaden looking for paintings. The Courbet was eventually returned to Rosenberg, who lived in New York after the war, and he sold it to Stern.

Much of this chaotic history can be seen on the back of the painting, where Nazi bureaucrats noted the source in black marker: ``Rosenberg Bordeaux.’’ A corresponding Nazi catalog card kept in Berlin files notes the painting’s location: ``HG’’ - Hermann Goering’s collection.

The Art Museum’s documentation efforts, which uncovered much of this extraordinary history, continue.

The museum also owns Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s Pensive Young Brunette (1845-50), seized by the Nazis in 1940 from Alphonse Kann, who amassed a huge collection at his townhouse at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris. Kann fled to London, and in 1945, a large part of his collection, including the Corot, was recovered by the Allies.

Kann sold the painting to Stern, who gave it to the Art Museum in 1963 (along with the Courbet and other works).

Researcher Herbert says she doesn’t know who recovered the Corot, only that ``a French Monuments Man named Hubert de Brye oversaw (its) return’’ to France.

A third Art Museum piece, a 17th-century Italian tapestry designed by Antonio Gherardi, was in the collection of Altkunst Antiquiten, a Jewish-owned gallery in Berlin. The gallery owners were forced out and their art liquidated on Goering’s orders in 1935.

The Art Museum, which received the tapestry as a gift in 1960, learned of the circumstances of the forced sale, and in 2010 informed the descendants of the gallery owners, reaching an amicable financial agreement with them.

``They were thrilled,’’ said Herbert, who added that the family members were unaware of the existence of the Philadelphia tapestry. ``They didn’t know about this.’’

This Week In The Civil War: Sherman In Mississippi

This Week in the Civil War - This series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War draws primarily from wartime dispatches credited to The Associated Press or other accounts distributed through the AP and other historical sources.

By The Associated Press
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Feb. 16: Sherman’s assault on Meridian, Miss.

This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and his forces were closing in on the vital rail nexus at Meridian, Miss. Sherman had had his eyes on Meridian as a key juncture, hoping to take an important Confederate supply line and possibly head deep into Alabama. But fierce fighting erupted on Feb. 14, 1864, before Sherman’s forces prevailed. The Union troops overran Meridian and began ripping up the train tracks. That destructive work by Union fighters continued for days until the 19th. Sherman ultimately was unable to continue his hoped-for advance into Alabama. In search of Confederate forces, Sherman withdrew his forces from Meridian and eventually returned to Vicksburg, Miss.

Folkies Recall Opening For The Beatles At Carnegie Hall In ‘64

Cody Enterprise

Cody, WY (AP) The unmarried stewardesses, who had passed weigh-in, moved down the aisle, their pressed skirt suits hiding their girdles, to the rear of the plane where the cigarette smoke billowed into a thick smog before being vented out into the sky.

Ahead, in the cockpit, the pilots wore wigs.

Somewhere between, Stan Beach, a 20-year-old guitarist for the Briarwood Singers, put his head back and thought he might let his hair grow out , nothing too shaggy, but enough to hang over his forehead.

Beach, now 69, is a frequent visitor to Cody where his daughter Nikki Brew and husband Ward Dominick and their children live.

It was 1964 and all five Briarwood Singers (Beach, Dorinda Duncan, Bob Hoffman, Harry Scholes and Barry Monroe), still were reeling from the excitement of the chaos they witnessed the night before, the screaming, the protests, the near-riot conditions.

They expected big things when they boarded the plane in Miami en route to New York City, but they had no idea four British musicians would cause such fuss.

But the chaos had not yet ended for the Briarwood Singers—the Beatles were on the same flight headed for Miami and another ``Ed Sullivan Show’’ performance, the Cody Enterprise reports.

The Beatles first landed in the U.S. at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City at 1:20 p.m. EST, Feb. 7, 1964, on Pan Am flight 101. More than 3,000 fans greeted them.

On Feb. 9, they famously performed on ``The Ed Sullivan Show’’ (their first American TV appearance) and 73 million people (45 percent of American TV households) tuned in.

Beach first heard the Beatles on the radio while parking his car at Sears.

``Here’s the new group, the Beatles,’’ the radio disc jockey said. ``They’re the big rage now.’’

It didn’t seem like anything special and it had a European sound, in Beach’s opinion.

But in time he heard ``I Want to Hold Your Hand,’’ ``Love Me Do’’ and ``Twist and Shout.’’

After the Sullivan Show performance in NYC, the Beatles took a train to Washington, D.C., where they again were met by screaming fans who were held back by 20-foot gates at Union Station. In D.C. they performed their first U.S. concert (on Feb. 11) to a crowd of more than 8,000 people at the Coliseum.

They attended a reception at the British Embassy before returning to New York for a Feb. 12 concert at Carnegie Hall.

The Briarwood Singers were signed to United Artists which had arranged the Beatles’ Carnegie Hall concert.

The Beatles were paid less than $10,000 for the Carnegie Hall performances, says Beatles historian Bob Zack of Sarasota, Fla. Tickets cost between $3 and $5.50.

The Singers confidently played their set and the audience, nearly 3,000 people (mostly young girls) for each performance, listened attentively.

In attendance were several notables, according to Zack, including Lauren Bacall, Shirley Bassey, and Nelson Rockefeller’s wife, Happy.

The songs from their album, ``Well, Well, Well,’’ were well liked, and the crowd enjoyed ``Rovin’ Gambler,’’ ``Pastures Aplenty’’ and ``500 Miles.’’

It was folk music, and the nation was used to it, accepted it, even liked it.

``We did a lot of our faster songs,’’ Beach recalled.

The Briarwood Singers played a 20-minute set, thanked the crowd and left the stage.

Backstage, the venue manager asked them to go back out and play more music.

``The Beatles aren’t ready yet,’’ the manager said. ``We need another 20 minutes.’’

The Briarwood Singers took the stage again and during the second set played slower songs. The crowd was chanting, ``We want the Beatles.’’

The Briarwood Singers finished their second set, left the stage, and when the Beatles came on it was ``pandemonium,’’ Beach says.

The Beatles opened with ``I Want to Hold Your Hand,’’ and the girls screamed, nearly drowning out the rock music struggling to carry through Carnegie Hall.

``It was awesome,’’ Beach says. ``I had never seen anything like it.’’

The Briarwood Singers, in their green, plaid suit jackets and black slacks, were five of the many people invited to sit on the stage while the Fab Four performed.

Jelly beans flew onto the stage, thrown by the crowd.

The girls screamed the whole time, and when the Beatles sang a high note while bobbing their heads and ``mop-tops,’’ the screaming got louder.

``It was something to behold,’’ Beach says.

(The Briarwood Singers and the Beatles performed a second concert that night to similar fanfare.)

The Beatles were the first rock ‘n’ roll band ever to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Classical music aficionados had greeted the Beatles with picket signs, but the hundreds of fans waiting to catch a glimpse of them sufficiently blocked the protesters from view.

The Briarwood Singers were the first musicians to arrive at the venue, and were greeted by the waiting fans, not as uproariously as the Beatles would be welcomed, but still politely. The Briarwoods waved as they passed and entered Carnegie Hall.

When the Beatles arrived, the police (more than 360 policemen worked the event) held the screaming fans back.

Once inside, Beach briefly met John Lennon. They shook hands as Beach was introduced. Lennon’s accent got in the way.

``And he (Lennon) said something - I have no idea what he said,’’ Beach says. ``It almost sounded like, `Good to meet another American.’’’

After the concert, the Briarwood Singers watched the Beatles get ushered out through a police line and into a limo.

``And that was it,’’ Beach says. ``They were gone.’’





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