INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A Hollywood movie playing in a theater near you has close ties to a real life painting that’s on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. A Gauguin painting and a native Hoosier are part of the real story of the “Monuments Men.”
Among the paintings in a collection hanging in a gallery at the Indianapolis Museum of Art is a Gauguin still life.
Associate Curator for Research Annette Schlagenhauff says the painting, now worth millions, was part of a 1998 museum purchase and donation from a Hungarian collector.
“This was painted on the coast in Brittany in a town called Pont Aven,” she says.
In fact, all the paintings in the collection shown on the second floor of the IMA were painted in Pont Aven. But it turns out, the Gauguin had a journey the museum just discovered.
“The Monuments Men” is a movie that tells the story of a group of people from 13 nations with expertise in the arts, who found and saved priceless works stolen and hidden by the Nazis. The Gaugin at the Museum is one of those saved paintings.
“And that part of the story had eluded us,” says Schlangenhauff.
Until, Annette says she read a memoir, written by Kokomo native Thomas Carr Howe Jr. describing his time as a real life Monuments Man.
“Reading his memoir I learned that it was Howe who was sent by Central Command to go to this town and evacuate those paintings,” she says.
A colleague in Washington D.C. confirmed the Gaugin was among the Monuments Men’s saved paintings because she had a picture of it at a collection point in Munich – a discovery made only a week ago.
“We can now say that a painting hanging in Indianapolis [was] safeguarded by a Monuments Man who was born in Indiana,” she says.
After the Gauguin was recovered by Howe, it was returned to its owner in Hungary. And an heir later sold it to the IMA. If the name Thomas Carr Howe Jr. sounds familiar, it’s because his dad was president of Bulter and has a high school in Indianapolis named after him.
The Museum hasn’t yet looked at the back of the Gauguin painting to see if there are any markings from when it was recovered by Howe, but will do so soon.