Edward “Teddy” Croft-Murray (1907-1980)
Curator, music aficionado, and renowned expert on British art, Edward “Teddy” Croft-Murray was born in Chichester, England in 1907. After receiving degrees from Lancing and Magdalen Colleges, Oxford, he became a volunteer research assistant in the Print Room at the British Museum, London. In 1933 he was named Assistant Keeper of Prints and Drawings.
During World War II, Croft-Murray served in the Admiralty and The War Office before being assigned as an Adviser to the MFAA in Italy in 1943. He arrived in Algiers, Algeria in early November 1943 and was ordered to Tizi Ouzou, Algeria for training. After a brief assignment in Sicily, he was stationed with the MFAA in Naples and traveled throughout the area assessing damage to monuments and securing works of art. In July 1944 he inspected the Palazzo Reale at Caserta, an eighteenth-century palace built for the Bourbon kings of Naples, which had been recently requisitioned as the Headquarters of the Allied Forces in Italy. Previously, the palace had been occupied by the Italian Aviation College as well as German troops, and utilized as a repository for works of art and other cultural treasures by the Superintendent of Monuments of Campania. Upon arriving at the palace, Croft-Murray supervised the removal of 500 paintings, 1,000 pieces of furniture, and 20,000 books that had been stored there during the war. The palazzo would later serve as the location for the secret surrender of all German forces in Italy on April 29, 1945.
In Italy, Croft-Murray worked alongside fellow Monuments Men Capt. Deane Keller, Capt. Roderick Enthoven, Capt. Roger Ellis, and Lt. Frederick Hartt. In mid-May 1945, word reached the Monuments Men in Italy that treasures reported missing from the Abbey at Monte Cassino had been found in the salt mine at Altaussee, Austria. Croft-Murray and Monuments Man Lt. Col. Humphrey Brooke arrived at Altaussee on June 23rd to find Monuments Man Lt. Cdr. George Stout skillfully orchestrating the packing and shipment of the mine’s contents. In 1945 Croft-Murray was later transferred to the Headquarters of Military Government in Steiermark, Austria, where he remained until 1946. Because of his expertise in British art and his position at the British Museum, he was chosen to select forty-seven watercolors by J.M.W. Turner from the collection of the British Museum for a special exhibition at the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point in November and December 1945.
Upon his return to the United Kingdom, Croft-Murray resumed his post at the British Museum. In 1953 he was promoted to Deputy Keeper and succeeded A. E. Popham, whose daughter Anne also served with the MFAA (in Germany), as Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings the next year. He remained at the British Museum for the next twenty years until his retirement in 1973. During his tenure as Keeper, he co-authored a comprehensive catalogue of the British Museum’s drawings from the British School in 1960. He also published Decorative Painting in England 1537-1837, which included not only the works of native British artists but also those of foreigners working in England who greatly impacted the course of British art. He also served as a board member, curator and chief advisor to the trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery in Bedford, England for over twenty-five years. He was appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1966.
In addition to his expertise in the history of British art, Croft-Murray was also an authority on musical history. While stationed in Sicily, he was responsible for saving an important collection of musical manuscripts which had been moved out of Palermo to a neighboring town. In Florence, he met the heirs of the great composer Vincent Novello and urged them to transcribe and publish the diaries of Novello and his wife. Croft-Murray also collected a variety of antique instruments, including a rare eighteenth-century Clementi grand fortepiano. At the time, his collection was regarded as “possibly the finest collection in private hands of unaltered string instruments.”
Croft-Murray died unexpectedly in September 1980. In 2005, his widow, Jill Whitford-Hawkey, donated his research archive on British decorative wall paintings to the Courtauld Institute of Art’s Wall Painting Survey.
Photo courtesy of the Walter Gleason Collection, The Monuments Men Foundation Collection, The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA.