Society of Fellows


SOF NEWS February 2015

Capt. Walker K. Hancock
Walker Hancock, left, with crates of recovered art
Photo: AAR archives
Walker Hancock, 1952
Photo: AAR archives
Walker Hancock in his Lanesville Studio, 1977
Photo: Charles A. Lowe
1 of 4

Walker Hancock, Monuments Man

Last year Academy sculptor Walker Hancock, FAAR 1928, RAAR, 1957, 1963 (1901-1998) was celebrated by a big Hollywood film, a national award, and an ongoing exhibition in Gloucester, Massachusetts on his beloved Cape Ann.  

During World War II Hancock and other art professionals from 13 countries were assembled by the Allies to trace and recover art and cultural artifacts that had been stolen by the Nazis. Officially they worked as the Allied Forces' Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit. Colloquially they became known as the Monuments Men.

A year ago this month the film The Monuments Men was released. Directed by George Clooney and based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel, it tells a somewhat fictionalized but entertaining story of the accomplishments of the Monuments Men. The part of  Capt. Walker K. Hancock  was played by John Goodman under the name Walter Garfield.  

 In June, 2014 President Obama signed the Mounuments Men Recognition Act, awarding the Monuments Men the Congressional Gold Medal.      

Last summer the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts opened A Chosen Place: Walker Hancock and Friends. This ongoing exhibition revolves around works by Hancock and some of his colleagues on Cape Ann, one of whom is the sculptor Paul Manship, FAAR 1912 (1885-1966). 

Both Hancock and Manship are legendary around the Academy, Hancock for his work with the Monuments Men, and Manship for his fountain in the center of the cortile. Both are also known for massive sculptures in very public places in America: Hancock for the Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial  (1952) at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Manship for Prometheus (1934) at Rockefeller Center in New York City. 

Some of Hancock's life stories were recorded in an oral history made by the Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1977 the interviewer Robert Brown spent nearly a month, from  22 July to 15 August, with Hancock and his memories. The complete 125-page transcript is available online. The description of this interview states that “Hancock discusses his early education and studying with Charles Grafly at the American Academy in Rome; studying at the Pennsylvania Academy and later teaching there; early work with Lorado Taft; fellow sculptors; and sculptural commissions vs. freelance work.” A brief sound clip features Hancock's voice. The interview is in the public domain.