Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Extra Credit Response: Monuments Men, by Stephanie Campbell

Stephanie Campbell
ARTH 480
Extra Credit Response: Monuments Men
            The story of the Monuments Men was very simplified in terms of the small group of men that committed to the cause, but also very vague in conveying the passing of time. The group of men was very select and few, and that surprised me.
             I was frustrated at the lack of progress they were having in the beginning of their excursion, waiting around, it almost appeared, and pointing to maps a lot. They were in or near the frontlines, but didn’t seem to come across problems with Germans which was interesting. They did have several instances where they were very close to the enemy, and those were just moments that I felt like they did not plan ahead very well.
             For instance when a pair of them were lost, they ventured into unknown territory and, being the artists and aesthetic appreciators they were, one was shot and killed because of his distraction to a horse. The other, named Donald, did try to plan ahead, but the American forces would not join him. I was upset that he did not plan out his defense against the thief-Nazis of the Madonna and Child, and he appeared to have been shot, easily.
            Little loses like this really bothered me, because I felt as though there is a comparison being made between those who are brave in war movies as soldiers and as art-recoverers, and the level of “skill” in war is portrayed as being much more successful in one than the other. But, when evaluating the works recovered by such a small band and fairly last-minute effort, the monuments men did do a fine job.
            The need to publicize this success, which in the film, led the Nazis to destroying some of their loot because they became aware of the monuments men, really troubled me in the sense of true short-sightedness. I really did not enjoy watching them torch a room full of paintings; it was a painful thing to watch.
             I can’t imagine what we might not have, had these people not come together to sacrifice their lives and time to finding all the work. I think the whole concept of art-rescuers is so significant and culturally profound, it almost passes as something that should just be expected. That was what put this story in perspective for me – our priorities in our civilizations are still under-worked in terms of efficiency in protecting what in this world we do know.
            When having researched the true story, I discovered that 345 men and women from across 13 countries were involved in the monuments men cause, however referred to as the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, & Archives). Until Robert Edsel began questioning how all the art in Europe survived the war, this cause and these people were not really recognized and honored for their world-wide efforts. This information is essential in the ways we view art today.

            There is a respect to practice in any point of time, and how it is inexplicably paramount to our current understanding of this world we make for ourselves. Respecting the masters, the past, and the sacrifices in the lives of these artists and the legacy of their work is what we strive to branch from today. This film touched on a subject that can expand into everyone’s lives, and I truly honor those brave enough to be part of MFAA.

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