As a result of the release of the new feature film, "Monuments Men," interest has been renewed in the heroics of the men and women who helped to preserve the artistic and architectural treasures of Europe during and after World War II. Area art lovers can be proud to say that there is a regional connection to the work of the Monuments Men.
H. Stewart Leonard, the first director of the Zanesville Museum of Art, became a Monuments Man after the war ended, but his efforts to save priceless treasures began earlier, when he was serving in the U.S. Army.
According to the website of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, Leonard worked with the organization in Germany from 1945 to 1948, after nearly four years of volunteer service with the Army. He had enlisted in the Army in June1941 and trained as a bomb-disposal expert.
"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," foundation officials stated.
According to published reports, Leonard later told fellow Monuments Man Bernie Tapir that his reward for carrying out this order was "I got to sit in Chartres Cathedral, the cathedral I had helped save, for almost an hour. Alone."
In 1947, Leonard was named chief of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section for Bavaria. The Munich Collecting Point fell under his jurisdiction.
In that role, officials of the Monuments Men Foundation said, "He (Leonard) 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."
Leonard became assistant director of the St. Louis Art Museum in 1949. He died in 1952, at the age of 44, in St. Louis after a brief illness.
From 1936 to 1941, Leonard served as director of the Zanesville Art Institute, now the Zanesville Museum of Art.
Tying in with the "Monuments Men" film, the Zanesville Museum of Art is now displaying several works on paper donated by Leonard, including "The Golfer," a print by Rembrandt van Rijn. Also on display at the museum is "Self Portrait," a work by 20th-century Expressionist Max Beckmann, who was labeled a degenerate artist by the Nazis. Beckmann fled Germany and came eventually to the United States. His first retrospective exhibition was held at the St. Louis Art Museum, where Leonard worked.
Congratulations are extended to cookbook authors Laura and Peter Zeranski, who have shared their two Polish cookery books and homemade treats with Lunch With Books audiences at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling on two occasions.
Their latest publication, "Polish Classic Desserts," has been designated as the 2013 winner of a prize for "best Eastern European cookbook in the United States of America" awarded by Gourmand magazine.
We also offer kudos to the residents of Crittenton Services in Wheeling who prepared a special meal and Valentine's Day treat for those in need.
Crittenton officials said the girls made chicken noodle soup and Valentine's Day cookies for Youth Service Systems' Winter Freeze Shelter in Wheeling this past week. They also made personal Valentine's Day cards for the people who are served by the shelter.
"It's important for our girls to learn to give back. There is always someone in need in our community and anyone, including those in need themselves, can give from the heart," said Chris Byers, Crittenton's vice president of residential services.
Linda Comins can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org