Major, British Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Officer
British art historian Ellis Waterhouse was in Athens when World War II began, and served with the military attaché there as a cartographer. In 1943 he resumed civilian status to work at the Greek Embassy. Waterhouse joined the MFAA in 1945, serving under Col. Geoffrey Webb, a fellow monuments officer and MFAA director for the British Zone. He entered Holland upon its liberation and worked on restitution efforts there. While inspecting works of art, Waterhouse identified the painting Supper at Emmaus, previously attributed to Vermeer, as a fake. The painting had been acquired by the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam in the 1930s. This accusation, along with the discovery of Hermann Göring’s fake Vermeer, Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery
, eventually led to the exposure of notorious forger Hans Van Meegeren.
From 1927 to 1929, Waterhouse was a Commonwealth Fund Fellow at Princeton University, and used the opportunity to study the work of El Greco in Spain. In 1930, an article entitled “El Greco’s Italian Period” was published based on his studies. Waterhouse returned to England following his fellowship, and was an assistant keeper at the National Gallery. After a short tenure there, he began working as a librarian at the British School in Rome until 1936. From 1938 to 1947, he was a Fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford.
Following his MFAA service, Waterhouse was briefly editor of the Burlington Magazine, and worked as director of the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh from 1949 to 1952. While at the museum, he acquired El Greco’s Salvator Mundi and Raeburn’s Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddington Loch
for the collection. Waterhouse was then named Barber Professor of Fine Art at the University of Birmingham and director of the recently founded Barber Institute, where he remained for eighteen years. During this time, he also lectured at Oxford University, Williams College, and the University of Pittsburg. Waterhouse moved to the United States in 1970, and directed the Yale Center for British Art from 1970 to 1973. He was then the Kress Professor in Residence at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. from 1974 to 1975, as well as an advisor to the J. Paul Getty Trust. Waterhouse died in 1985, following a heart attack, and left his papers to the Getty Research Institute. A significant portion of his spectacular personal library was also sold to the Getty Museum Library in Malibu.