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Biographical Note | A Finding Aid to the George Leslie Stout papers, 1855, 1897-1978

George Leslie Stout papers, 1855, 1897-1978

Biographical Note

George Leslie Stout (1897-1978) was a museum director and prominent art conservator in Massachusetts. Stout was head of the conservation department at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum, and director of the Worcester Art Museum and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Massachusetts. During World War II, Stout served in the U.S. Army Monuments, Fine Art and Archives (MFAA) and played a leading role in the protection, location, and recovery of art work stolen by the Nazis.
Born in Winterset, Iowa in 1897, George Leslie Stout was the oldest of six children and attended Winterset High School and served in the U.S. army during World War I. Following the war, Stout studied at the State University of Iowa, received his B.A. in 1921, worked for a few years, and married Margaret Hayes in 1924 with whom he had two sons, Robert and Thomas. He attended Harvard graduate school in 1926 and graduated with a Master of Art in 1929. Stout began working as a lecturer and conservator at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum, later becoming the head of the conservation department in 1933, a position he held until 1947.
During World War II, Stout re-enlisted in the U.S. Navy, having served in the reserves since World War I. Stout was one of the first members of the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives (MFAA) Section of the U.S. army. He was appointed to the MFAA Section for the Twelfth Army Group in 1944 and was one of the first Monuments Men to arrive at Normandy, France. He was later appointed Lieutenant Commander of the MFAA Section. Many of the Monuments Men's stolen art recovery achievements were directed by George Leslie Stout. Stout supervised the inventory and removal of looted art hidden by the Nazis in the salt mines of Merkers and Ransbach in Thuringia, Germany. Stout oversaw the organization, packing, and shipping of several thousand objects including paintings by Rubens and Goya, along with precious antiquities. At the Altaussee salt mines in Austria, he was in charge of the unit that recovered a large cache of stolen artwork that included Michelangelo's
Madonna and Child
and the Ghent Altarpiece or
The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb
by Hubert and Jan van Eyck. There, he also worked very closely with fellow Monuments Men Thomas Carr Howe. Stout went on to locate and recover looted artwork in other repositories in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. He maintained a relationship with many of his fellow Monuments Men after the war.
Stout left Europe in the latter half of 1945, then went to Japan where he served as the Chief of the Arts and Monuments Division at Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Tokyo until the middle of 1946. After the war Stout received the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal for his army service and work as a Monuments Man in Europe.
Stout resumed his position as the head of the conservation department at the Fogg Art Museum when he returned to America. In 1947 he became the director of the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts where he stayed until 1955, when he became the director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston where he worked until his retirement in 1970. Stout wrote numerous articles about art conservation and wrote two books:
Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia
(1942), co-authored with Harvard colleage R. J. Gettens, and
Care of Pictures
(1948). Stout died in Menlo Park, California in 1978 and was widely recognized as a distinguished art conservator.