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Chadwick, Cpl. Gordon | Charles, Capt. Rollo | Conrad, Lt. Doda

Charles, Capt. Rollo  

Captain, British Element, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA)

Beloved Keeper of the Department of Art at the National Museum of Wales, Robert Lonsdale Charles was born in Cornwall, England, and educated at Shrewsbury and Corpus Christi College at Oxford. He received his BA in French and German, but also developed an interest in the arts through his studies with Sir Karl Parker. Charles spent much of his time at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford studying Old Master drawings in the print room.

Following his service with the Royal Artillery during World War II where he was decorated with the Military Cross, Charles worked with the British MFAA from 1945 to 1946, assigned to the Control Commission for Germany.[1] Charles’ diary, documenting his MFAA work for the months of August through November 1945, has been published in German in Cay Friemuth’s Die geraubte Kunst.[2]

Upon his return to England in 1946, Charles was named Assistant Keeper of the Department of Art at the National Museum of Wales, where he specialized in the ceramic and silver collections. In 1952, Charles was promoted to Keeper of the Department of Art replacing John Steegman. Due to the large bequeaths of private collections such as those of the Davies sisters, and his dedicated encouragement of the arts in Wales, Charles “saw the transformation of the Department of Art from a provincial collection into one of national importance.”[3]

In 1964, Charles’ book, Continental Porcelain of the 18th Century, was published, and the following year he wrote the section on Swansea and Nantgarw porcelain in English Porcelain, edited by R.J. Charleston. In addition to his role at the museum, Charles served on the Fine Arts Advisory Committee of the British Council, the Welsh Arts Council, and the Museums Association. His death at age 60 cut short the career of a truly remarkable museum man, a man for whom “art was personal, human, and indivisible.”[4]

[1] Obituary, The Times, May 22, 1977, page 19.
[2[ Cay Friemuth, Die geraubte Kunst: Der dramatische Wettlauf um die Rettung der Kulturschätze nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (Braunschweig: Westermann, 1989).
[3] Obituary
[4] G.O. Jones, Robert Lonsdale Charles, Address given at a Thanksgiving Service for the life of ‘Rollo’ Charles, Llandaff Cathedral, 1 April, 1977.


Copyrighted by Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art