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1979 days ago,
Video by: BrightScreenProductions Few institutions in the United States are more connected with the history and legacy of the Monuments Men than the Princeton University Art Museum. Two of my predecessors as director served with distinction as Monuments Men. Ernest DeWald (1891–1968) carried out his graduate studies at Princeton (completing his Ph.D. in 1916) and was a scholar of medieval and Renaissance art who joined the Princeton faculty in 1925, recruited by then-chair of the Art and Archaeology Department Charles Rufus Morey. By the time DeWald rejoined the army—he had served in World War I as well—he was a middle-aged man knowingly putting himself in harm’s way, typical of many of the Monuments Men. After the war, Rutgers awarded DeWald an honorary doctorate for his service, and he became director of the Princeton museum in 1947, serving until his retirement in 1960. In 1950, the Austrian government honored DeWald’s personal service by briefly lending Johannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting to Princeton. DeWald once again rose to serve in 1966 when Florence’s Arno River flooded, causing catastrophic damage to the city’s cultural treasures. He remained a Princeton man to the end, dying shortly after attending a Princeton-Columbia football game in 1968./nThe second of the Museum’s Monuments Men was Patrick Kelleher (1918–1985), who succeeded DeWald as director of the Art Museum in 1960 and served until 1972. Like DeWald (but a full generation younger), Kelleher trained at Princeton, completing his M.F.A. in 1942 and his Ph.D. in 1947, specializing in early Christian art. Kelleher led the Greater Hesse Division of the MFAA and was involved in the recovery and safeguarding, respectively, of two of Europe’s great cultural treasures: the head of Nefertiti now in the Berlin Museum and Saint Stephen’s Crown, the thousand-year-old Hungarian national symbol. During his tenure as director at Princeton, Kelleher carried out the Museum’s first modern building campaign that led to the erection of the 1966 International Style building that remains the Museum’s core. He also led the selection of the first twenty-one sculptures for the John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection for the Princeton campus, honoring a hero of the Class of 1945 who died in 1944 while serving as a fighter pilot.
DeWald and Kelleher were not Princeton’s only Monuments Men, having been joined by S. Lane Faison (Graduate School Class of 1932), Craig Hugh Smyth (Class of 1938, Graduate School Class of 1956), and Charles Parkhurst (Graduate School Class of 1941), as well as Robert Koch (Graduate School Classes of 1949 and 1954), who went on to teach at Princeton for forty-two years and was the last of our surviving Monuments Men, dying only two years ago.