Humanity, whatever its faults, have been blessed by God with the ability to create and express. Gifted individuals are able to bare their souls through art, exposing the world to impactful images, that define us as cultured individuals. These works unconsciously shaped humanity and our understanding of a refined civilization.
Last month I saw the film Monuments Men; based off Robert M. Edsel’s biography about a group of 345 individuals who dedicated their services to recovering stolen art during the final years of WWII. The art was “com-endeared” by the Nazi party to be placed under the sole possession of the Third Reich, a maneuver used to prove culture could only be controlled or appreciated by those of a superior race. In short, they stole one of the main foundations of culture and claimed it for Germany. Recognizing the injustice of this, museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects, and educators banded together for one purpose: to retrieve and protect art. Many died in their effort to protect such cultured treasures as the Madonna, an event movingly depicted in the film. At the end of the film, George Stout, played by George Clooney is asked by the president if the ends justified the means. His response is a resounding yes, not because those lost weren’t valued, quite on the contrary, but the means are justified because the death of those individuals only proved how worthy a cause this really was. The loss of these men and women further encouraged their mission. Finding and protecting the art wasn’t just an operation of recovery, but of redemption.
Also in the film, the character George Stout makes a speech of how this mission isn’t just to save art, but to save culture as we know it. This resinated with me throughout and even after the film. His point is highly accurate; the loss of art means the loss of history, and the foundation of society. Culture is, by definition “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively”. Art has a powerful impact on society, mainly classic pieces done during the hight of culture and thought. From the 1500s to the 1900s some of the best art was created, immortalizing centuries worth of intellectual advancements and phycological discoveries, all documented through written and artistic works.
Art is our history brought to life; battles reenacted, and empires restored to former glory, all through paintings and one mans God given ability to bring it to life. Such culture, such history can’t be contained by one individual. Art is not one countries culture, art can’t be attributed or limited to one nation it belongs to the culture of Humanity. One species, one history, one Maker.
There could and neither should be one superior society that can have infinite control, as proven in the bible. The same can be said of humanity, unless it is God Almighty, no matter how strong the opposing force, there will always be people who go against what they know is wrong. In the case of World War 2, these were the Monuments Men, fighting to conserve culture and our history. By the end of the war, these real life crusaders recovered 5million works of art hidden by the Nazi’s in caves and land mines; they continues their search for six years until all of the work had been restored to their homes. These men and women restored more than art, they restored the foundation of culture and society. Art belongs, not to a culture, but to humanity.