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Lehmann-Haupt, Hellmut | Leonard, Stewart | Lesley, Capt. Everett Parker Jr.

Leonard, Stewart  

Civilian; Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Officer

Museum director Stewart Leonard worked with the MFAA in Germany from 1945 to 1948, following nearly four years of volunteer service with the army. As a bomb-disposal expert, he dismantled 22 bombs placed around Chartres Cathedral, acting as a devoted Monuments Man by risking his life for the sake of art. Leonard interviewed Hermann Göring at Nuremberg on August 30, 1946, just six weeks before he committed suicide. At the interview, he informed Göring for the first time that his prized painting, Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery, supposedly by Vermeer, was in fact a fake. Leonard later said that upon realizing he had been duped by the forger Hans van Meegeren, “Hermann Göring looked as if for the first time he had discovered there was evil in the world.”

In 1947, Leonard became Chief of the MFAA section for Bavaria. The Munich Collecting Point therefore also fell under his jurisdiction. He oversaw the restitution of thousands of work of art, including the return to the Bavarian Ministry of Culture a collection of art formerly owned by the German state, the Nazi party, and various Nazi officials. In November 1948, Leonard resigned from his position due to a severe dispute with military government officials over the return to Italy of certain works of art. The collection in question had been purchased by Nazi Germany from the Fascist Italian government before 1943, when Italy surrendered to the Allies. Leonard didn’t approve of the return of the 17 paintings and one sculpture because he felt they were not “war booty.”

Prior to the war, Leonard attended the University of Chicago and graduated with a Bachelors of Philosophy in 1930. Two years later, he became a lecturer at The Stone City Art Colony and School, where he received his Masters degree in 1934. His thesis was written on the architectural history of Chicago. Following his graduation, Leonard became the director of the Key West Art Gallery, as well as chairman of the area Fine Arts Commission of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. From 1936 to 1941, he served as the first director of the Zanesville Art Institute in Ohio. In 1949, following his military service, Leonard became the assistant director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, and published several articles in the museum’s magazine, The St. Louis City Art Museum Bulletin. Stewart Leonard died at the young age of 44 in St. Louis after a brief illness.


Copyrighted by Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art