An artwork owned by of the original ‘Monuments Men’ was amongst the star lots of a recent Modern & Contemporary Art Auction at Heritage in Dallas.
The Monuments Men were a group of international art historians and museum experts who found themselves in war zones across Europe during WWII.
Their mission was to protect important historic and cultural monuments from being destroyed, and to help recover the the millions of artworks stolen by the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners.
In what was later described as the "greatest treasure hunt in history", the team discovered thousands of secret caches featuring priceless artworks and artefacts which had been hidden – either by museums to protect them from looting, or by Nazis such Herman Goerring, who sought to assemble a private collection of tens of thousands of stiolen relics.
One of those Monuments Men was Sergeant Kenneth Lindsay, an art historian and professor from Wisconsin who was drafted in 1943 and served as a cryptographer in London, before heading to to the front in France just weeks after the D-Day landings.
Following the end of the war he then transferred to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point in Germany, where the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program) had set up to receive large shipments ready to be catalogued and restituted.
In 1945 the U.S. Army ordered that more than 200 German-owned paintings be transferred to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Lindsay was one of more than 30 experts, working under the leadership of Capt. Walter Farmer, who banded together to protest the order, resulting in the ‘Wiesbaden Manifesto’ – which stated that none of the works should be claimed by the U.S as spoils of war.
Lindsay returned to the U.S in 1946, and later spent 40 years teaching at Binghamton University in New York, where he helped establish the college’s first programs in art history and studio art, an extensive library, a photography archive and an art museum.
The artwork offered at Heritage, a watercolour on paper by George Grosz, was originally a gift from to Lindsay from Walter Farmer in recognition of his efforts in Wiesbaden.
George Grosz was a German artist known for his depictions of Berlin life in the 1920s, who later emigrated to the U.S in 1933 and taught at the Art Students League of New York.
His watercolour, entitled ‘Im Café (Seminude Woman with Champagne Glass on verso)’, captures a moment in one of the Berlin coffee houses where he spent his days sketching and painting, and sold for $112,000.