CAM’s ‘Monuments Men’ is richly rewarding

A visitor views a photo wall with the Berlin 202 that toured America in the ’40s. Photo by Cliff Fennel

Cincinnati Art Museum’s “Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men: The Berlin Masterpieces in America” (July 9-Oct. 3) is a fascinating, not-to-be-missed exhibition on several levels.  It explores the controversy of removing art that was patrimony of the German people after World War II. It tells the story of Cincinnati’s own “Monuments Man” Walter Farmer. It also tells the true story of the first blockbuster exhibition of European art to tour in America.

I attended the media preview last week, and of course, I was wowed by the star of the show, Botticelli’s “Vivid Portrait of a Lady.” Susan Stamberg did a lovely piece on NPR about her.

There is much more to ponder here, starting with four of the original paintings that toured America after the war and drew an unprecedented 2.5 million visitors.

My personal favorite was this 17th-century landscape by Philips Koninck, “Panorama of Holland,” on loan from the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. It was shown in all 14 stops of the US tour. You must stand there a while to drink it all in — the sunbreak in the threatening sky, the water ways and the little villages.

But there are so many other riches in this exhibition — a Watteau, a Titian, a Rubens. Then there is the remarkable story — and the excellent book that goes with the exhibition. Its authors and co-curators, Peter Jonathan Bell and Kristi A. Nelson, were there last week for a long-postponed opening. Of courses, the show was to have opened during the pandemic last year.

The co-curators Bell and Nelson share a moment/photo by Cliff Fennel

I plan to make several visits. Do go when the crowds are not large. You might also want to learn more in these special events:

Summer Teacher Institute July 13-15: Cincinnati Art Museum Calendar of Events – Cincinnati Art Museum

See the Story Book Club: Monuments Men by Bret Witter and Robert Edsel – July 17, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Join librarians from the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library and members of the Cincinnati Art Museum staff for this bi-monthly book club. You can check out the book, e-book, or audio book at

click here to join the discussion on July 17th at 11:30 a.m. Find out more here.

Art After Dark | A Monumental Celebration – July 30. 5-9 p.m. Free admission. Registration not required.  Enjoy live music from the Monday Night Big Band in the Alice Bimel Courtyard, swing dancing with Pones, food for purchase from Dewey’s Pizza, cash bars and free admission to special exhibition Paintings, Politics, and the Monuments Men. #ArtAfterDarkCincy

Monuments Men Symposium – September 24 (details to be announced)

More will likely be added to the calendar in September. Here’s the link.

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