The Monuments Men

After a slow start to the day and a lazy afternoon we finally left the house to see “The Monuments Men”, a George Clooney extravaganza. The reviews I have read subsequently were terrible but we enjoyed it even though it felt like an American propaganda film at times. There were some moments of tension and the sheer scale of the “collecting” of art works by the Nazis was mind-boggling. It is a story that needed to be told. As Robert Edsel, the author who wrote the story on which the movie is based, said the work of the Monument Men is still relevant today, given that more recent conflicts still take their toll, from the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 to the destruction of the minaret of a 12th-century mosque in Aleppo in Syria, in April last year. He has spent 19 years on this story whilst trying to gain recognition for the extraordinary courage and dedication of the Monument men and women to saving millions of priceless art works.

If the only thing this film does is to bring to public notice the bravery of those souls whose passion drove them to save some of the world’s most valued art, then I think George Clooney’s efforts will not have been in vain, despite the harsh reviews. There was also a quiet reminder of the horror and scale of the Holocaust, something we should all be constantly reminded of and vigilant to guard against ever allowing such an atrocity to happen again. And on a more philosophical note, it made me wonder “what is the value of art”? This was a rather bland definition, in my view, from “The value of art to a society is its ability to preserve history. Many paintings depict historical events and communicate ideas from the past. Art can provide pleasure as it can be entertaining. Art collections also attract tourists“. I think this quote from Cezanne captures the nature of art  “If I were called upon to define briefly the word Art, I should call it the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature, seen through the veil of the soul.” Or these quotes by Rodin “The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”  and Bacon The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” 

I will leave the final word to Professor Stephen Guest from UCL in his lecture on the Value of Art, as I can’t put it any better myself,

It is impossible to imagine life in our community today without art, and art’s influences, about us, shaping the way we perceive the




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