Recoverer Of Stolen Art Dies At 95

WBEN 30 June 2008

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Charles Parkhurst, who helped recovered art looted by the Nazis, and later spent two years at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, has passed away.

He died at his home in Amherst, Massachusetts, on Thursday. He was 95.

Charles Percy Parkhurst was born in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from Princeton as a master of fine arts in 1941.

After serving as an assistant curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, he went to war as a naval gunnery officer in the Mediterranean.

As World War Two ended, he was named deputy chief of Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives in Germany.

The mission of the so-called "Monuments Men" was tracking down art and artifacts stolen by the Germans, ultimately finding more than five million items.

He said the job was made easier by the thieves: "Germans are very methodical in general," he would say, "and they kept very good records."

In 1945, Parkhurst and other officers blocked an effort to ship the looted art to the United States. The so-called Wiesbaden Manifesto caused a furor -- and Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the supporters who made certain the plan was dropped.

For his efforts in recovering looted art, the French government made him a chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

After leaving the Navy in 1946, Parkhurst followed Andrew C. Ritchie to Buffalo, becoming an assistant curator of the Albright Art Gallery.

During the two years in Buffalo, Parkhurst also taught across the street at State Teachers' College, now known as Buffalo State College. But he wasn't happy with the class, telling the Archives of American Art, "The students weren't terribly good."

Parkhurst left Buffalo when he was lured back to his alma mater, Princeton, this time to teach.

In 1962, he was named director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, where he stayed until, again, returning to a familiar place -- Washington's National Gallery of Art -- but this time as chief curator.

Some of the information in this article is from William Grimes' obituary from the International Herald Tribune, and from a 1982 Buck Pennington interview for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
© website copyright Central Registry 2023