Original mezzotint engraving by S. A. Edwards, circa 1900, after Botticelli

 

 

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One of the most extraordinary and fascinating people I have met during my many travels over the years was Dr. Gordon Gilkey. We first met in the early 1990's at the Portland Art Museum where he served as curator of the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Center for the Graphic Arts. At the time I was just beginning to collect works of fine art. Gordon was always there to advise me on acquisitions and to assist me with issues relating to provenance. He helped me to learn how and from where to collect art and helped me to refine my collecting focus from modern works to the genres of the old masters.

  During World War II, as the Allied armies were moving through Western Europe, Gordon wrote President Roosevelt and urged him to review military tactics so as to minimize damage to the great art treasures of Europe. The President agreed and directed General Eisenhower to award Gordon command of the unit charged with protecting these treasures. When Germany surrendered, Gordon was assigned to track down and confiscate Nazi propaganda art throughout the defeated Third Reich.

For his efforts, he was knighted by France and given similar recognition by Sweden, Italy and Germany, The United States would later award him the Meritorious Service Medal and in 1997, he was promoted to Officer of the National Order of the L├ęgion d'honneur by the French government. His contribution to the preservation of Western art in the 20th century is unparalleled.

As a young man, I spent countless hours with Gordon exploring hundreds of works of art on paper that he curated. We spent hours in conversation during which I learned so much about the fine arts. He was a kind and gentle man and my time with him proved to be one of the most inspiring chapters in my life. He was the original Monuments Man.

 

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