George Stout was born in Winterest, Iowa in 1897. Part of blue collar family he enlisted in the army and served in WWI. Following the war he studied art at the University of Iowa. Finding little success in a career post college he eventually found himself in 1926 with his pregnant wife Margie attending graduate school at Harvard with a minimal stipend.
In 1928 Stout joined the art conservation department at the Fogg Art Museum as a graduate assistant. During this time he made the notable contribution of using an old card cataglogue to begin scientifically examining the impact of paint and various chemicals over time. Stout and the department chemist John Gettens pioneered three types of important art conservation branches common today: rudiments, degradation, and reparation.
When WWII broke out Stout became an active voice for conservation of great art during the very destructive war in Europe. Ignored, he eventually enlisted himself in the Navy in 1943 where he had the job of testing paint to be used as camouflage on military aircraft.
Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts established the Roberts Commission under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's backing. The Roberts Commission took on Stout's charge that overseas art and cultural artifacts should be preserved during the war efforts, largely in part as a matter of military strategy.
Stout became one of the first members appointed to the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archive) unit, of which he would earn the rank of Lieutenant Commander, a group of 15 men (8 Americans, 7 British...of the 15, 8 would be in the field).
The monument men, including Stout were involved in many dangerous and operationally challenging task, including discovering stored art in booby-trapped caves and mines, particularly Merker's Mine which was discovered in the spring of 1945.
Stout departed Europe in July of 1945, and months later would be sent to Japan for similar work, where he remained until mid-1946.
After the war, Stout returned to Harvard's Fogg Art Museum until soon after in 1947 he became the director of the Worchester Art Museum in Worchester, Massachusetts. In 1955 Stout became the director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts where he worked until 1970. Stout died in 1978.
The Monuments Men
The film The Monuments Men tell the story of Stout and the other monument men in the final years of WWII. In addition to George Clooney playing the role of George Stout, the film also co-stars Matt Damon as James Rorimer, another one of the Monument Men, the young curator of the Metropolitan Museum.
Other stars include John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Bonneville, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban.
It's a strong cast and crew, a unique story, and a war that both Hollywood and film-goers love to see explored in film.
Will George Clooney's portrayal of a unique World War II hero receive awards attention, and maybe even an Oscar nomination (or win) for this Reel (Real) Person?
Update: The character's name was updated to Frank Stokes after this post was initially written.