Updated Mon, Jan 27, 2014 10:40 am
Soon to be released nationally, the film Monuments Men will have special interest to Zanesville, Ohio, residents.
H. Stewart Leonard, the first director of the Zanesville Museum of Art, became a Monuments Man following his volunteer service in the U. S. Army at the close of WWII in 1945.
Six works on paper by famous printmakers, donated to the museum by Leonard, are on display in honor of his role as part of the Monuments Men.
Following graduation from the University of Chicago (B.A. in 1930 and M.A. in 1934), Leonard immediately moved to Key West, Fla., where he was attracted to the Federal Relief Administration, led by friend and colleague, Adrian Dornbush.
Dornbush, along with Edward Rowan and Grant Wood, was one of the originators of the Stone City Art Colony where Leonard had been the youngest lecturer in that project.
Leonard (shown at right) was named director of the Key West Art Gallery, leaving that post to become director in 1936 of the Art Institute of Zanesville, now the Zanesville Museum of Art, founded by Mr. Edward Ayers.
Newspaper clippings and letters on file in the Zanesville museum’s archives indicate that Leonard, in addition to developing the museum’s programming, was an active lecturer on topics of interest, including the collection of art works in the permanent collection and on period furniture and decorative furnishings from local residents.
In June, 1941, prior to America’s formal entry into WWII, he enlisted in the U. S. Army and trained as a bomb-disposal expert. Records show that he was assigned to dismantle 22 bombs placed around Chartres Cathedral in France.
He later told fellow Monuments Man Bernie Tapir that his reward for carrying out this order was, "…I got to sit in Chartres Cathedral, the cathedral I had helped save, for almost an hour. Alone."
When Tapir wanted to know if art was worth a life, Leonard’s reply was that he chose to remove the bombs and that it was worth the reward. He also told Tapir "There’s one good thing about being in the bomb disposal unit... there’s no superior officer looking over your shoulder."
Later in 1946 he interviewed Herman Goring in Nuremburg six weeks before the Reichsmarschal took his own life. During the interview, Leonard told Goring that his prized Vermeer Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery was a fake. Leonard related that "Goring looked as if for the first time he had discovered there was evil in the world."
In 1947, H. Stewart Leonard was officially a Monuments Man as chief of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section for Bavaria. The Munich Collecting Point fell under his jurisdiction.
He oversaw the restitution of thousands of works of art, including art formerly owned by the Nazi party, the German state and various officials. He resigned in 1948 due to a dispute over art for which ownership was questionable.
Leonard became the assistant director of the Saint Louis Art Museum and published several articles in the museum’s magazine. He died at the age of 43 in St. Louis.
The Zanesville Museum of Art is displaying several works on paper donated by Leonard, including The Golfer, a print by one of the most famous old master printmakers, Rembrandt van Rijn.
Self Portrait by 20th Century Expressionist Max Beckmann, who was labeled a degenerate artist by the Nazis, is also included. Beckmann fled Germany, and eventually came to the United States. His first retrospective exhibition was held at the St. Louis Art Museum, where Leonard worked.
Visit www.zanesvilleart.org for more information.
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Golfer, 1654