During World War II, The Frick Art Reference Library joined the international effort to protect cultural treasures from the destruction of war, inviting the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas to headquarter their operations at the Library. Library staff assisted Committee members, preparing maps and lists locating art treasures and monuments across Europe. Used by Allied forces (from bomber pilots to Monuments Men) to identify and protect Europe’s cultural legacy, these maps and resources were an invaluable contribution to the effort.
While the war raged abroad, The Frick Collection took steps to protect its own holdings in the face of possible attack on the home front. In May of 1942, the most valuable works of art were placed in storage in a new vault constructed for that purpose. The remaining artwork was re-hung and the Collection stayed open to the public throughout the war years.
Relationships forged in the 1920s between the Frick Art Reference Library and overseas representatives, who were hired to secure books and photographs for the Library, continued during the war. Letters from purchasing agents Clotilde Brière and Lea Danesi Tolnay, and photographer Mario Sansoni, describe in vivid detail the hardships of living in France and Italy in wartime.
This online exhibition presents maps, correspondence, photographs, and reports that document these three compelling narratives from the World War II era of our institutional history. Developed using Google Open Gallery, the exhibition allows users to enlarge images, view transcripts, and share and compare images. Inquiries regarding the exhibition may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A bibliography of World War II Provenance resources is maintained in our online catalog, FRESCO.