Maurice Ambrose DeVinna, Jr. (1907-2004)
A respected journalist and proponent of the arts, Maurice Ambrose DeVinna, Jr. was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1907. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1926, and received two degrees from Harvard University in 1930 and 1934. He later studied at the University of Heidelberg, the University of Vienna, and Tulane University. In 1933 he was awarded a scholarship from the Institute of International Education to study at the Institut d'Art et d'Archéologie at the Sorbonne in Paris. His completion of the program with a Brevet d’Art made him the first native Oklahoman to earn a degree from the Sorbonne.
In 1934 DeVinna joined the staff of Tulsa World as the newspaper’s art critic and arts editor. He also served as Assistant State Supervisor of the Oklahoma branch of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Program from 1936 to 1942, and traveled to cities across Oklahoma promoting public art. He travelled to France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Hungary, and Italy, familiarizing himself with the global art world and becoming adept at numerous foreign languages. He was fluent in French and semi-fluent in German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
DeVinna was drafted into the U.S. Army in December 1942 and served as a French interpreter for various military sections. He was honorably discharged in 1945 but remained in Europe to accept a civilian post with the Office of Military Government for Greater Hesse. He worked at the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point alongside Monuments Officers Capt. Everett P. Lesley, Jr., Capt. Edith A. Standen, and Lt. Theodore A. Heinrich until June 1946. Following his service with the MFAA, DeVinna served as a translation editor for the 42-volume series published in accordance with the trials of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. In this position, he compared English, French, and German versions of court transcripts and documents submitted in evidence, which were reproduced in the series.
In 1953 DeVinna returned to his post as fine arts editor at Tulsa World, where he remained until his retirement in 1977. His enthusiastic support of the arts brought him recognition from Europe as well as within Oklahoma. In 1979 he was made a Chevalier in the Ordre des Palmes Académique by the minister of the Universities of France, and received the Ordres des Artes et Lettres from the French government. In addition, he served as Honorary French Consul in Tulsa for nearly twenty years and was a charter member, and later a lifetime honorary president, of the Alliance Francaise’s Tulsa chapter. In 1995 he was inducted into the Tulsa Hall of Fame.
Prior to his death in 2004, he established the Maurice DeVinna Charitable Trust, which continues to provide bi-annual funding for the purchase of art for the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa. Some of these acquisitions include Mrs Herman Duryea by John White Alexander, Bathsheba at Her Toilette by Jean François de Troy, and The Death of Cato by Mathieu Ignace van Brée.