Gordon Waverly Gilkey was an artist and professor of art for more than 50 years. He was born in Scio, Oregon in 1912 and attended the University of Oregon, where he was the first student to earn a Fine Arts degree in printmaking.
During World War II, Gilkey served in the United States Army Air Corps and advised on cultural monuments to be spared from bombing. Following the Allied victory, Gilkey was named Chief of the War Department’s German War Art Program from 1945 to 1947. His primary responsibility included gathering German and Nazi propaganda art. Like the Monuments Men, Gilkey found many pictures in abandoned trains, homes, salt mines, and other hiding places. Gilkey also organized the collection, created indexes and files, preserved and restored paintings needing immediate attention, and packed them for shipment. For his work, Gilkey was knighted by France and received honors from Italy, Germany and Sweden.
Following his return to the United States, Gilkey became a professor and later dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University. Upon his retirement in 1977, he donated his expansive collection of prints and drawings to the Portland Museum of Art. He became the museum’s curator of Prints and Drawings and Printmaker in Residence at Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland. In 1993, he and his wife founded the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Center for the Graphic Arts at the Portland Museum of Art.