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Faison, Lt. Cdr. S. Lane, Jr. | Farmer, Capt. Walter I. | Finley, David E.


Farmer, Capt. Walter I.  

Captain, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archive (MFAA)

Walter Ings Farmer, born in Alliance, Ohio in 1911, studied at Columbia University in New York and Miami University in Ohio, where he earned a B.A. in Architecture in 1935. He became an interior designer and worked with A.B. Closson, Jr. Company in Cincinnati from 1935 to 1942 when he joined the Army. After being called up for service four times, and four times rejected due to his eyesight, he was finally accepted into service in 1942, first in the Medical Corps where his eyesight would not be a problem, and later the Army Corps of Engineers.

In June 1945 when Farmer learned that his 373rd Engineers group was to return to the U.S., he requested to join the MFAA in order to assist with the restoration of the destruction he had witnessed in Europe. Farmer served as Director of the Wiesbaden Collecting Point where he oversaw thousands of incoming objects which had been stored in the salt mines, the majority from German museums including the Bust of Nefertiti. By the time he left in 1946, over 28,000 crates of artworks had been inventoried and cared for, including many works that were conserved or restored. Like his fellow Monuments Men, Farmer signed the Wiesbaden Manifesto in protest of the United States’ decision to transfer 202 German-owned artworks to the National Gallery in Washington D.C. for safekeeping.

Upon his return to the U.S. in 1946, Farmer continued his work as an interior decorator and in 1949 he opened his own firm, Greenwich House Interiors, in Cincinnati which he owned and operated until his death in 1997. He was also a lecturer at the Cincinnati Art Museum from 1936 to 1970, at the Columbus Art Museum from 1949 to 1960, and at the University of Cincinnati from 1949 to 1967. He was a founder of the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston and served as the first president of the board from 1945 to 1949. Farmer was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Miami University in 1973 and he also co-founded the Miami University Art Museum in 1978.

Farmer shared his MFAA experiences at the Bard symposium, The Spoils of War in 1995 in a talk entitled “Custody and Controversy at the Wiesbaden Collecting Point.” In recognition of his work at the Wiesbaden Collecting Point and his protest of the U.S. decision to ship German-owned artwork to the U.S., Farmer received the German Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit in 1996. That same year, Farmer also wrote the article “The Wiesbaden Manifesto of 7 November 1945” in the German publication, Jahrbuch Preussischer Kulturbesitz. In 1997, Farmer was awarded Humanitarian Prize of the Year by the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Germany. Farmer’s memoirs detailing his work at Wiesbaden and the Wiesbaden Manifesto, The Safekeepers: A Memoir of the Arts at the End of World War II, was published posthumously in 2000.

In 2001, Walter Farmer’s daughter, Margaret Farmer Planton donated her father’s papers to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., where they are conserved in the Gallery Archives.

[1] Walter I. Farmer, The Safekeepers: A Memoir of the Arts at the End of World War II (Berlin & New York: de Gruyter, 2000), 13.
 

 


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