World War II was a great tragedy claiming about sixty million lives and destroying lots of property. When you think about World War II, most people would think about saving lives and art would be the last thing that would come to mind.
A lot has been, is and shall still be remembered about the Manod mine, a quarry that played a big role in the saving of priceless treasures during the World War II
“Hide them in caves and cellars, but not one picture shall leave this island", these are the words of Winston Churchill, a hero who is not only remembered for his sayings, but also his bravery and participation in saving art. For art lovers, just Winston, one would not have to explain much on the value of art. By just one look, an art lover would interpret the worth of a piece of art.
-The Mona Lisa
For decades now, art lovers have been awed by this mysterious oil painting by an Italian artist, Leonardo da Vinci. The Mona Lisa which is likely to have been completed in 1506 portrays a woman set against a landscape while sitting. Why is it still famous? The artist’s idea of painting the woman who slightly gazes at a viewer with a soft smile makes many viewers see it as a representation of what happiness is.
How about the painting In the Conservatory?
A painting by Edouard Manet, which portrays his close friends, the Guillemets, a wealthy married couple who owned a clothing shop.
In the painting the woman is dressed in yellow details as a large part of her outfit and is the main subject. She is sitted in a upright posture facing forward, while on the other side behind the bench stands her husband dressed in a black suit, slouched looking towards the woman.
The painting brings about a sense of detachment between the couple as the woman appears to be annoyed while the man appears to be adoring her.
These are some of the most famous paintings that are appreciated from generation to generation. However, the history of their existence to date, was not that smooth. During World War II, The National Gallery was attacked and bombed a number of times between October 1940 and April 1941.
During this period, much of the art was destroyed, some were stolen never to be seen again, and although a good number got saved, the hustle to keep them in a safe location was too much. Now this is where the Manod mine comes in.
Artists, such as Winston Churchill, who was a British politician, army officer, and a writer before he discovered the pleasures of painting at forty, took it upon themselves to save the art.
Keeping artworks in a mine, underground, sounds surreal but this actually happened.
In September 1940, the National Gallery’s adviser Francis Rawlings visited the Manod slated mine and found five chambers which he deemed fit to be converted into secret storages for the art.
However it took up to the year 1941 to convert the chambers into deep shelters, after which the art at the National Gallery was moved by rail and road, and stored safely in the Manod mine, North Wales
The Manod project proved success that in the 1950’s, long enough after the national gallery was on the walls of London, it was the planned destination for Britain’s priceless art work in the event of world war III.
Recently, there has been a national gallery exhibition title ‘Manod which showed how the art was relocated to the mine. The curator of the exhibition Minna Moore-Ede proved delighted with the historical project by sharing her sentiments “Keeping masterpieces in a mine doesn’t sound like a great plan – but the paintings were actually “very happy down there”. ‘
That actually the human race could take it upon itself to save artwork at such a desperate time, proves that art lovers who knew the worth of art existed before, will still exist and will never become extinct.