I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Watson Library doing some research today when I passed this display case.
I did a double-take when I noticed this image of none other than Dwight Eisenhower himself. This is he and Mamie walking down the Met Museum steps familiar to New Yorkers for generations.
The date was 2 April 1946. That day the Met made Eisenhower an Honorary Fellow for Life for his role in saving European artworks during the Second World War. This is the first page of the address he gave that April day:
Here is the order he gave in May 1944, just a few weeks before D-Day. It is revealing that he would issue such an order even before the Normandy Invasion. He always said there was no contingency for failure. Thus, there were preparations for saving artworks even before a beachhead had been secured. Think about it.
Here are Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley. The photo was taken by a U.S. Army lieutenant in a German salt mine on 12 April 1945, a month before the war ended and a year before Ike spoke at the Met.
In a nice touch, the museum has a gallery itinerary in which one cane find artworks now in the Met that were saved by the Monuments Men. I had seen a few of these a number of times over the years without knowing their provenance.
Here is one of those works.
The painting was donated to the Met in 1964, half a century ago and only nineteen years after the war’s end.
(images/Ike et al, National Archives; Guardroom, Metropolitan Museum of Art)