During the Second World War, the director of the National Gallery of London, Kenneth Clark, while reading the newspaper found out an article addressed to him. It was a letter from a reader who asked him if he could you reopen the doors of the museum that has been closed because of the German bombing.
Obviously, it would be very dangerous for the artworks but the director is impressed by this request. “It is precisely because of the war that we need to see beautiful things,” thinks the director.
How to do? The National Gallery, like other museums, has emptied their exhibition halls. Then all the artworks were put in an abandoned mine in Wales. This precaution proved to be effective because nine bombs have fallen on the National Gallery building since 1940. Because of that danger, the museum obviously cannot be reopened.
But Londoners need consolation and Kenneth Clark makes an unprecedented decision: he made arrive an artwork secretly every month. This operation is carried out following maximum security criteria, so that the “picture of the month” does not risk anything. Two assistants remain in proximity and at the slightest warning signal they are ready to evacuate the artwork. Every night, the artwork is placed in an underground secured room.
Much to Clark’s amazement, the public shows up at the monthly appointment and this initiative lasts until the end of the war. Paintings by Titian, Velázquez, Renoir, and many more, go back and forth to warm up the soul of Londoners. As the author of the letter says, “it’s risky, but worth!”