Frederick Shrady: Artist and Rescuer
A well-taught painter turned self-taught sculptor, Frederick Shrady became internationally famous for his art, especially on religious subjects. But as he was gaining fame as an artist, he was also helping retrieve thousands of priceless art treasures, stolen by the Nazis.
Born in New York in 1907, Frederick Charles Shrady was a son of sculptor Henry Merwin Shrady, who created the Grant Memorial on the Mall near the Capitol in Washington. He graduated from Oxford in England in 1931 and moved to Paris to study and paint. Over nine years there, he gained esteem as an artist; his paintings are now in museums in Paris, Lyons, Grenoble, Belgrade, and Zagreb.
Early in World War II, Shrady worked with the French underground (he was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government). In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and eventually joined the Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) division (celebrated in the 2014 film, The Monuments Men). He was one of the team that rescued thousands of stolen art works, stored by the Nazis in a mine at Altaussee, Austria.
While there he met his future wife, Maria, an MFAA interpreter. They married in 1946.
In 1945, though he was an American Episcopalian, he created a 14-foot high painting, “Descent from the Cross,” for St. Stephen’s Cathedral (‘Stephansdom’) in Vienna, as a gift from the U.S. Armed Forces. He became the only American to have his art in this and several other major churches in Europe including the chapel of St. Francis in Paris and the Dublin Cathedral.
Back in the U.S., Shrady began turning more to religious subjects and after moving to New Road in 1948, converted to Catholicism. Here he took up the medium of his father, becoming almost solely a sculptor. His very first work, a bust of noted Jesuit philosopher Martin D’Arcy created in 1949, was so good, the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought it.
Shrady’s works are in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, FBI headquarters in Washington, the U.S. Mission at the UN; Lincoln Center in Manhattan; and scores of churches and schools across the country. Three works are in the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum.
A 10-foot bronze statue of Our Lady of Fatima, commissioned for the Vatican Gardens behind St. Peter’s Basilica, was unveiled before Pope John Paul II in 1983.
In Ridgefield, Shrady created 53 sculptures in 1956 for the new St. Mary’s School. His two youngest children were among the early St. Mary students.
In 1959 the Shradys moved to a large stone mansion in Easton, built in the 1930s by author Edna Ferber.
Frederick Shrady died in 1990 at age of 82. Maria, who died in 2002, wrote several books on religious subjects. —Jack Sanders