Beginning in the 1920s, the Frick Art Reference Library engaged overseas representatives to secure books and photographs. Clotilde Brière and Lea Danesi Tolnay acquired auction, sales, and exhibition catalogues, periodicals, monographs, and photographs from Europe, enriching the Library’s collection. Photographer Mario Sansoni was hired to photograph paintings, monuments, and frescoes, many of which had no previous visual record.
During World War II, Helen Clay Frick and her staff remained in contact with Sansoni, Brière, and Tolnay, whose letters described their personal experiences and hardships in war-torn France and Italy. Despite the difficulties of war, all attempted to continue work on behalf of the Library, and their dedication is evident in their letters to Miss Frick. Once the war was over, all three resumed their work, purchasing photographs and books, as well as photographing monuments and works of art.
In addition to his work for the Library, Mario Sansoni assisted the Monuments Men by photographing damaged works of art in Italy.