George Leslie Stout was one of the United States of America’s first art conservators. Stout worked in Cambridge, Massachusetts as the head of the first Conservation Department in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University before being called into active military duty in 1943. Soon after, he was recruited to serve on the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (MFAA) also known as the Monuments Men. Stout later lead the Monuments team of men and women dedicated to safeguarding cultural property in war areas during and after World War II. After the war, he returned to Massachusetts and was the director of the Worcester Art Museum and later the Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Museum. He was a founding member of the International Institute of Conservation.
George Stout was one of the first names I learned when I became interested in the field of art conservation in 1989. Rutherford Gettens and George Stout’s Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopedia and Stout’s The Care of Pictures were the first two books I purchased, read cover to cover, and still reference today. The Foundation for the American Institute of Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works’ (FAIC) “George Stout Memorial Fund” afforded many students, including me, the opportunity to attend our first annual AIC meetings to become active members of this extraordinary field that George Stout and many other Monuments men and women helped to create.
Today, The Monuments Men movie opens. It is based on this true story about a local hero (played by co-screen-writer and producer, director, and star George Clooney) who worked with several hundred others to save countless works of art we may still have the pleasure of enjoying. Thanks George!