Theodore "Tubby" Sizer (1892-1967)
Museum director and professor, Theodore “Tubby” Sizer was born in New York City on March 19, 1892. His early interest in drawing, combined with a visit to Japan, inspired him to study art at Harvard University. His father reluctantly agreed to let Tubby travel the world for one year on the condition that he still graduate from Harvard on time. True to his word, he completed a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts cum laude in three years.
Sizer served during World War I as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard. He received assignments with the U.S. Army Military Police Corps and the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Following the war, he remained an active member of the U.S. Army Reserve while working for several years in the import-export business. His career in art began with his appointment as curator at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1922. He then began a long career at Yale University which included his appointment to Associate Professor of Art History in 1927, Professor in 1931, and Associate Director of the Yale University Art Gallery in 1929. He became director of the Gallery in 1940. At Yale, he befriended one of his colleagues, Deane Keller, who Sizer would later recruit for a position with the MFAA.
In the years leading up to World War II, Sizer made over one dozen trips to Europe, becoming fluent in French and German as well as proficient in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. He travelled widely throughout South America, China, Japan, Australia, and North Africa. In 1942 he was assigned to U.S. Army Air Force Intelligence School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Sizer’s extraordinary aptitude for languages, combined with his extensive experience as a museum administrator, led to his selection by the Roberts Commission for service with the MFAA during its early planning stages. He was attached to the School of Military Government in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he instructed future Civil Affairs Officers on the topic of arts and monuments. He also aided Paul J. Sachs, Director of Harvard’s Fogg Museum of Art and member of the Roberts Commission, in the recommendation of officers qualified for Monuments work, some of which came from his own pool of officers in Charlottesville. Later in the war, he served in a similar position at the Civil Affairs Training School in Shrivenham, England.
In September 1943, Sizer began eight weeks of Civil Affairs training in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, before serving in the field in Sicily. There, he helped compile a revised list of Italian cities of exceptional cultural importance, an invaluable resource utilized for military planning. Sizer was also the first Chief of MFAA operations in Germany when the German Section of SHAEF was activated in March 1944. Together with Monuments Men Lt. Col. Mason Hammond and Capt. Calvin Hathaway, Sizer helped prepare the Civil Affairs Handbook for Germany as well as an official List of Monuments used by subsequent Monuments Men in the field.
Sizer was forced to abandon his duties in May 1944 due to illness. After multiple hospitalizations, he was evacuated to the United States and received a medical discharge. For his work to protect European cultural heritage during World War II, he was awarded the Corona d’Italia with the rank of Commendatore in 1945.
Sizer continued his directorship of the Yale University Art Gallery until 1947. He retired as Professor Emeritus in 1957. The later part of his career was devoted to the study of heraldry. He became Yale’s first Pursuivant of Arms in 1963, creating coats of arms in stone as well as banners for both Yale and the city of St. Louis, Missouri. Well known for his gregarious character, he had a white walrus mustache and wore flowing capes in shades of blue and black. Many of his nearly 2,500 students fondly remember his enthusiasm during lectures, which once caused him to topple from the podium. He was also a trustee of the Textile Museum of the District of Columbia and a member of the American Antiquarian Society.
Tubby Sizer died in West Haven, Connecticut on June 21, 1967.
Photo courtesy of Yale Art Gallery.