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Rousseau, Theodore, Jr. | Sawyer, Pfc. Charles H. | Scarpitta, Salvatore C., Jr.

Sawyer, Pfc. Charles H.  

Private First Class, Roberts Commission, Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU), Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archive (MFAA)

A distinguished museum director, Sawyer worked with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (“OSS”), then the U.S. intelligence gathering agency, during World War II. From July to December of 1945, he served as Assistant Secretary-Treasurer of the Roberts Commission, an organization that directed the establishment of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program under the Civil Affairs Division. Sawyer also served with the Art Looting Investigation Unit as the liaison officer in Washington, D.C. The mission of the ALIU was “to collect and disseminate such information bearing on the looting, confiscation and transfer by the enemy of art properties in Europe, and on individuals or organizations involved in such operations or transactions, as will be of direct aid to the United States agencies empowered to effect restitution of such properties and prosecution of war criminals.”

Sawyer received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1929, and went on to study law at Harvard. His career path changed, however, when he enrolled in Paul Sachs’ renowned museum studies class. He was soon asked to become the first curator of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, where he had attended school. In 1940, Sawyer was hired to serve as director of the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, where he worked until taking leave to serve with the OSS. Upon his return home, Sawyer was appointed director of the Division of Arts and Dean of the School of Architecture and Design at Yale University, where he was granted an honorary Master of Arts in 1947. Sawyer also held honorary degrees from Amherst College, Clark University, and the University of New Hampshire.

In 1957, he became the director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art and was appointed to the University faculty, where he remained until his retirement in 1972. He was a member of the Smithsonian Art Commission from 1953 to 1980, and served as the chair of the commission in 1968, the year President Lyndon B. Johnston dedicated the new Smithsonian American Art Museum building in Washington, D.C. Sawyer is perhaps most recognized for his creation of the Museum Practice Program, which he developed to train aspiring museum administrators. The Charles Sawyer Center for Museum Studies at the University of Michigan Museum of Art was founded in his honor in 2003. “Charlie” Sawyer passed away after a brief illness on February 25, 2005.


Copyrighted by Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art