Picking up where we left off:
Then…there are the Nazi albums Stay tuned!
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.