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The Weekender | March 28th - 30th

A look at stolen art and the Monuments Men. The mumuration of starlings and the beautiful voice of Holly Williams.

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The Weekender

The Weekender is your guide and open thread for the weekend, presented by the fine folks at Viva The Matadors. Things to quote, read, look, watch, and listen to for the weekend. Let's do this.

A look at stolen art and the Monuments Men. The mumuration of starlings and the beautiful voice of Holly Williams.


Clarence Day (via GoodReads).

"The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out, and after an era new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the heart of men centuries dead.


Pretty good articles on stolen paintings in World War II. The movie came out I really didn’t know what this was, but I read one very recent article and one article a few months ago about what that whole scene was like. I think it’s two parts that I didn’t really understand.

The first part is that there was a ton of art that was simply stolen or sold for less than market value because of the situation that was culminating in Europe (i.e. Hitler). I think I really just didn’t understand how much art was confiscated or purchased or whatever. The other part of this whole thing was that I really didn’t understand why the art was so problematic and the Vanity Fair article really explains that. This helped me figure out why it was so important or why the art was sold at a fire sale. I don’t think I understood that really at all.

The second part is the actual Monuments Men, which isn’t all that big of a part of the first article. The second article is about what exactly the Monuments Men did, which wasn’t just to uncover this stolen art, but to make sure that the actual monuments were protected before any bombings took place in Europe. I’m guessing the movie focused on finding this huge cache of art that was recovered, but there was a lot more ground work involved in what they did.

The Devil and the Art Dealer (via Vanity Fair).

The son of a Budapest rabbi, Nordau saw the alarming rise in anti-Semitism as another indication that European society was degenerating, a point that seems to have been lost on Hitler, whose racist ideology was influenced by Nordau’s writings. As Hitler came to power, in 1933, he declared "merciless war" on "cultural disintegration." He ordered an aesthetic purge of the entartete Künstler, the "degenerate artists," and their work, which to him included anything that deviated from classic representationalism: not only the new Expressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, Fauvism, futurism, and objective realism, but the salon-acceptable Impressionism of van Gogh and Cézanne and Matisse and the dreamy abstracts of Kandinsky. It was all Jewish Bolshevik art. Even though much of it was not actually made by Jews, it was still, to Hitler, subversive-Jewish-Bolshevik in sensibility and intent and corrosive to the moral fiber of Germany. The artists were culturally Judeo-Bolshevik, and the whole modern-art scene was dominated by Jewish dealers, gallery owners, and collectors. So it had to be eliminated to get Germany back on the right track.

Maybe there was an element of revenge in the way Hitler—whose dream of becoming an artist had gone nowhere—destroyed the lives and careers of the successful artists of his day. But all forms were targeted in his aesthetic cleansing campaign. Expressionist and other avant-garde films were banned—sparking an exodus to Hollywood by filmmakers Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, and others. "Un-German" books like the works of Kafka, Freud, Marx, and H. G. Wells were burned; jazz and other atonal music was verboten, although this was less rigidly enforced. Writers Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Stefan Zweig, and others went into exile. This creative pogrom helped spawn the Weltanschauung that made the racial one possible.

How the Monuments Men Saved Italy’s Treasures (via Smithsonian Magazine).

The idea of safeguarding European art from damage was unprecedented in modern warfare. The brainchild of experts associated with American museums, the concept was embraced by President Roosevelt, who established the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas. The commission assisted the War Department by providing maps of European cities and towns where significant monuments and religious sites were highlighted, to be used by bombing crews and commanders when planning operations. In Britain, Prime Minister Churchill approved a parallel committee in the spring of 1944. Like all sections of the Allied military government, the MFAA would be composed nearly equally of American and British officers. The commission selected a few enlisted men to serve in Italy with the Allied armies—MFAA ranks would increase to more than 80 as the war progressed across Europe and reached France, Austria and Germany—and charged them to report on and bring first aid to damaged buildings and art treasures, and indoctrinate troops on the cultural heritage of Italy.


Murmuration is your word of the day. The Murmurations of Starlings (via The Atlantic).

When starlings flock together, wheeling and darting through the sky in tight, fluid formations, we call it a murmuration. These murmurations can range from small groups of a few hundred starlings in a small ball, to undulating seas of millions of birds, blocking out the sun. I thought today would be a good day to just take a few moments and appreciate the simple beauty of murmurations, captured by various photographers over the past few years.


A bird ballet (via Vimeo).

An mesmering murmuration of starlings. We were shooting for a commercial, waiting for an helicopter flying into the sunset, when thousands and thousands of birds came and made this incredible dance in the sky. It was amazing, we just forgot our job and started this little piece of poetry... Enjoy !

A bird ballet from Neels CASTILLON on Vimeo.


This was recommended to me by my friend, @Tye Burger and Holly Williams is the grandaughter of Hank Williams Sr. and daughter to Hank Williams Jr. It’s pretty danged soulful and really terrific.