UI professor was one of the 'Monuments Men'

UI professor was one of the 'Monuments Men'

"Monuments Men," George Clooney's new movie about art rescued from the Nazis in World War II, is about the real-life adventures of a University of Illinois art history professor and hundreds of others.

You can be among the few to see Edwin Carter Rae's photographs taken during the rescue, and read his account, which is now preserved in the University of Illinois Archives.

Some monumental facts about him:

After coming to Urbana to do his doctorate in 1939, the year Germany invaded Poland and started the war, he joined the Army in 1942. "He was afraid of getting seasick, so he enlisted before the Navy could get him," son Thomas Rae says. The art historian rose to the rank of captain.

His dissertation was on "Gothic Architecture in Ireland" but during the time of "Monuments Men" he served as an expert on the German Renaissance.

France awarded him the Legion of Honor.

While traveling with a recaptured Hungarian crown, he learned a Hungarian love song from an opera singer, daughter Sarah Rae says. He used to sing what he understood to be the lyrics to his family, and his version is preserved in the UI archives.

In 1947, Rae came back to Urbana and became chairman of the art history department.

"He was very studious, but he also had a great sense of humor," his daughter says. "He was really passionate about his work in Irish medieval architecture. He spent his sabbatical years in Ireland, and we sometimes got to go with him."

He was quite serious about exercise. Colleague Marcel Franciscono remembers being impressed with the weights and other equipment owned by the slight, quiet man. "He could surprise you," Fanciscono said, with his displays of wit.

"He was five-foot-seven and 140 pounds, quiet and hardly ever swore," his son says "but he was driven like a force of nature."

The professor retired in 1979 and died in 2002.

Rae's papers have been given to the UI by his widow, Dorothy Rae, and can be seen online at http://bit.ly/1bHoG7h

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