Basil Marriott (1902-1971)
Architect and art critic, Basil Marriott was born in Cornwall, England on October 6, 1902. He gained an appreciation for art from his father, Charles Marriott, a novelist, journalist, and art critic for The Times. Educated at St. Paul’s School in London, Marriott taught at the Architectural Association School before working as Art Director of the Empire Marketing Board and as an advisor with the Copper Development Association. During the late 1930s he helped found the London branch of the Reimann School, the first commercial art school in Britain. Originally based in Berlin, Germany, Nazi persecution and art censorship forced the school’s relocation to London in 1936. Marriott served as the school’s Organizing Secretary for Public Relations and Publicity until the onset of war forced its closure in 1940. During World War II, the school’s campuses in London and Berlin were both destroyed by bombing.
Marriott enlisted in the British Army in September 1943. In June 1944 he received a transfer to the MFAA Subcommission of the Allied Control Commission in Italy. He served first at headquarters in Naples before accepting an assignment as MFAA Officer for the Venezie Region in August 1944. His duties included the inspection of damaged monuments in Verona, Treno, Bolzano, Bressanone, and Venice, among other cities. Marriott also worked in the field alongside Monuments Man Capt. Fred H. J. Maxse. Together, these two Monuments Men visited the Church of San Francesco alle Scale in Ancona, where they recovered archaeological treasures belonging to the Museo Nazionale trapped below the cathedral’s demolished campanile. When Maxse fell ill and was hospitalized for an extended period, Marriott assumed his friend’s duties in the Abruzzi-Marche Region. He conducted inspections of monuments in such towns as Fano, Pesaro, Gradara, and Jesi, skillfully managing the territory by himself for the span of six months. Only when Maxse recovered and returned to duty did Marriott at last resume his work in the Venezie Region.
In addition to his duties, Marriott also found time to give lectures to Allied troops stressing their shared responsibility in the protection of cultural heritage. In February 1945 he presented a speech entitled “The Preservation of Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives: What the Allies are doing and why?” to a large group of troops assembled at the local YMCA. Marriott remained in the field in Italy until December 1945, when arts and monuments operations became the responsibility of the Italian government. Rather than return home, however, a determined Marriott requested an assignment with the British MFAA in Austria. He quickly received a promotion and orders to report to the Allied Commission for Austria- British Element as MFAA Officer for Land Steiermark and Kärnten, near Klagenfurt.
Following his return to England in July 1946, Marriott resumed his career in architecture. He was elected a Licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1948. Marriott then joined the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, where he designed title pages and book jackets for the Commission’s many publications. Marriott also worked as an art critic, contributing numerous articles and reviews to architectural journals and magazines, including “The Sculptor’s Role in the Embellishment of Architecture” (Builder, 1953) and “Church of St. John Clerkenwell: Sympathetic Rebuilding and Restoration” (Builder, 1958). Further articles appeared in honor of the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. He retired in 1963.
Basil Marriott died in Lambeth, England on March 7, 1971.
Photo courtesy of the Walter Gleason Collection, The Monuments Men Foundation Collection, the National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA.