James Rorimer was born in 1905 in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon graduating from Harvard in Paul Sach's museum course in 1927 he was a rising museum superstar, quickly getting a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) where he became the Assistant Curator by 1929, and Associate Curator in 1932.
He became an expert in Medieval Art, he planned and developed the popular Medieval museum the Cloisters which opened in 1938. He was also a pioneer in using radiography to examine artwork.
Rorimer joined the Army infantry in 1943, and when American and British forces identified the strategy and importance behind preserving cultural artifacts during the world, the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archive) unit was formed. Rorimer was one of the first, recommended by his previous professor Paul Sachs.
Rorimer began his role as part of the MFAA inspecting monuments in Normandy, he was then moved within France being assigned to the Sienne section of Paris. During this time he identified a Nazi art looting operation. In the last months of the war Rorimer found himself in Germany as part of the Seventh Army where he discovered vast amounts of looted art including the castle Neuschwanstein and Heilbronn mines.
In 1950, he published a book about his experience as a Monuments Men called Survival: The Salvage and Protection of Art in War. He also returned to working at the Met after WWII, He was the director of the Cloisters. By 1955 Rorimer was appointed Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he successfully served as director until he died of a heart attack in his sleep in 1966.
The Monuments Men
The film The Monuments Men tell the story of Rorimer and the other monument men in the final years of WWII. In addition to Matt Damon playing the role of James Rorimer, the film also co-stars George Clooney as George Stout, another one of the Monuments Men.
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.
Matt Damon frequently takes on biographical roles. Will Matt Damon'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 in the film was changed to James Granger after this post was initially written.