Friday, February 28, 2014

The Monuments Men Part 2 Picking up where we left off:

The Monuments Men Part 2

Picking up where we left off:

and the next question of course would be “What led him to the Monuments Men?”

That is a more burning and complicated question.  The more I read about Mr. Edsel’s life after 1995, the more the picture emerges of a suddenly enormously wealthy man with time to spare and money to burn…who had the brains and the interests to seek a truly original and gratifying and useful way to spend that time and money…a wonderful example of what wealth can be used to accomplish in the hands of a thoughtful person.  We don’t know anything about his personal character, but have to admire his dedication to historical preservation and research and the Monuments Men.  Clearly, he is a man entranced with this work. 

In 1996, Robert Edsel moved to Europe with his family.  While living in Florence, Italy, in the heart of the country responsible for so much that is beautiful and fine in the art world, he began to think about the methods and planning used to keep art out of the hands of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.  No wonder he started thinking about this.  Even today remnants of Mussolini’s regime are still so evident in Rome, Florence and other parts of Italy.

Following a divorce in 2000, as night follows the day, Robert Edsel moved to New York City, where he began a serious effort to learn about and understand the issue of the lost art.

By 2004, those efforts had become a full time career, and he established a research office in Dallas, his home town.  By 2005, he had gathered thousands of photographs and other documents, and began writing the manuscript for his first book, RESCUING DA VINCI.  This book received wide attention.

In September 2009, his second book, THE MONUMENTS MEN, a narrative telling of the story of the Monuments Men, was released by Hachette Book Group.  Plans included publication of that book in seventeen languages.

These were followed, as we know, by the two other books mentioned earlier.

While this was going on, he co-produced a documentary film, The Rape of Europa, based on a book by Lynn Nicholas.  Narrated by Joan Allen and well received by critics, the film began a theatrical run in September 2007 at the Paris Theatre in New York City.
In the meantime, not to waste a second, he created The Greatest Theft in History, an educational program, which includes the documentary film The Rape of Europa as well as seven hours of additional clips, a companion website featuring lesson plans, glossaries, timelines and other resources which allows teachers to utilize this material for classroom use.

Again, and most importantly, while all this was going on, Mr. Edsel created the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. 
The Foundation’s mission is “to preserve the legacy of the unprecedented and heroic work of the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, known as ‘Monuments Men’ during World War II, by raising public awareness of the importance of protecting and safeguarding civilization’s most important artistic and cultural treasures from armed conflict.” 
He announced the Foundation’s creation during a ceremony at The White House on June 6, 2007, the 63rd anniversary of D-Day.
Then…there are the Nazi albums     Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What, you may ask, do the Monuments Men have to do with character education for children?

The answer is "Lots!"

To begin, we have Robert M. Edsel.  He is the modern man who has single handedly put the Monuments Men back on the map, so to speak.  He is the author of several books about the work of the Monuments Men,

such as RESCUING DA VINCI: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe’s Great Art – America and her Allies Recovered It, published in 2006. 

And THE MONUMENTS MEN: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, published in 2010.

And SAVING ITALY: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis, published in early 2013.  In fact he was here in Kansas City just last spring as a guest of Rainy Day Books promoting this book.

And most recently ROSE VALLAND: Resistance at the Museum, published in October 2013.  Remember Rose’s name…she is really Cate Blanchett.

Mr. Edsel’s  movie THE MONUMENTS MEN is based on the 2010 book mentioned above.  It was due to be released this December just in time for the Academy Awards, but at the last minute the producer George Clooney declared that some of the special effects were just too “cheesy” for his movie and that they simply didn’t have enough skilled people to bring it in on time.
And so they re-scheduled the film, co-produced by Columbia Pictures/20th Century Fox and Babelsberg Studio, to be released on February 7, 2014 which of course is today.

Just to whet our appetite,  please note that the cast includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin (of  The Artist fame) Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville (of  Downton Abbey fame) and last but not least, Cate Blanchett in the role of Rose Valland.   

More about the movie: 

Based on fact, the film focuses on an Allied platoon made up of seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, tasked with going into Germany in the closing stages of World War II to rescue artworks requisitioned by the Nazis and returning them to their rightful owners.

Principal photography began in early March 2013 at the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, Germany, and in the Berlin-Brandenburg region and the Harz, where the City of Osterwieck was a particularly important place for the outdoor scenes.  A cast of thousands was needed for the military scenes.  Some of the scenes, including flights and American war base footage, were filmed at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire UK.  Filming was scheduled to last until the end of June 2013, wrapping up in Rye, East Sussex.

So to learn more about this Robert M. Edsel, the person who set all this activity in motion...

He was born in 1956 in Oak Park, Illinois, and raised in Dallas, Texas.  He is the son of Norma Louise (a housewife) and Alpha Ray Edsel (a stockbroker).  At one time, he was a nationally ranked tennis player.
In 1981 Robert Edsel began his business career in oil and gas exploration…in Texas, one would think.  His company, Gemini Exploration, pioneered the use of horizontal drilling technology throughout the early 1990s.  Gemini Exploration grew from a company with eight employees to almost 100.

By 1995, Gemini had become the second most active driller of horizontal wells in the United States and Robert Edsel sold the company’s assets to Union Pacific Resources Company.

So that answers the question of “Where did he and his wealth come from?” and the next question of course would be “What led him to the Monuments Men?”

Stay tuned for the next installment.