The Monuments Men

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John F. Hayward ( 1916-1983 )

John Forrest Hayward was an internationally renowned and accomplished expert in the history and identification of various forms of European decorative arts and furnishings. He attended Magdalen College in Oxford, England on a history scholarship until 1937, when he accepted a research job with The Courtauld Institute of Art’s Economic Research Department. While attending Oxford, Hayward acted on his new interest in arms and armor, beginning his own personal collection and volunteering at The Courtauld’s Wallace Collection.

Hayward began his military career as a Special Operations Executive (SOE) equipping Allied servicemen with false documents and identities before they were transported behind enemy lines, and interrogating captured enemy agents until “V-E Day” on May 8, 1945. He was subsequently transferred to MFAA headquarters in Austria, where he was responsible for the preservation of art and historic buildings in Carinthia, the southernmost province of Austria. For the next three years, with the assistance of British occupation forces and National Socialist librarians, Hayward organized the restitution of looted Jewish collections in the library of the Hohe Schule, the planned Nazi university. Identifying and recovering these important books fueled Hayward’s interests in bookbinding. Intrigued by the book collection at the Hohe Schule, that he Hayward organized an exhibition of the most prized incunabula and manuscripts in Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia, in November 1945. To his great disappointment, the exhibition did not garner much attention from his peers.

In 1947, Hayward spent two years as Principal to the Central Commission in Vienna. His transfer to Vienna gave him the opportunity to examine the imperial royal armor and porcelain collections, work he later included in his book, Viennese Porcelain of the Du Paquier Period (1952). This research brought new attention to a mostly forgotten subject of art history.

Following military service, Hayward returned to England and began working for the Victoria and Albert Museum, first specializing in metalwork and later furniture and woodwork. He became Deputy Keeper in 1956, but Hayward subsequently accepted a position at Sotheby’s, London, as Associate Director in the Works of Art and Armor Department. He retired from Sotheby’s in 1981, but remained a trusted consultant until his death.

In addition to his wartime service, Hayward established himself as an authority on European decorative arts. During his employment at some of England’s most respected art institutions, Hayward published many articles on the decorative arts including Hughenot Silver in England (1959), Art of the Gunmaker (1962/63), and Virtuouso Goldsmiths & the Triumph of Mannerism 1540-1620 (1976), the latter of which earned him a Doctor of Letters from Oxford University. The Belgian government bestowed honors for his service as a SOE. It is estimated that 450,000 volumes of books were recovered by his officers under his supervision while he was at Hohe Schule.

Hayward passed away on February 25, 1983 in London, England. At the time of his death, he was in the process of cataloguing the arms and armor in Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England from 1533 – 1536, in Kent, England.