Celebrating the Life of Charles Hill, Legendary Art Recovery Detective

“A masterpiece will tell you itself that it’s a masterpiece, it jumps out at you.” – Charles Hill

The art world lost a legend on February 22nd, 2021. Although famous for his 1994 recovery of Munch’s The Scream, retired detective Charles Hill said, “My greatest thrill was finding Vermeer’s Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid, which was stolen from Russborough House in 1986…”[Source: Country Life Magazine| March 16, 2009]

“If Prince Valiant and Philip Marlowe shared custody of a single body,’ says Edward Dolnick, who wrote Stealing the Scream, ‘the result might resemble Charley.’” [Source: Country Life Magazine| March 16, 2009]

“It’s exhilarating to get what you’re going for back. I can actually recover these things and feel as if I’m doing my bit for creation.”

Charles Hill

Tributes from the Art Recovery World

Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) CEO, Lynda Albertson wrote a beautiful tribute for the @ARCA_artcrime blog, as seen and linked in the tweet below:

“His friends called him Charley, never Charles and certainly not Charlie.”

Lynda Albertson
Charles Hill, Art Detective ‘How I recovered The Scream’ – Witness – BBC News

Charles Hill developed an alter-ego for his undercover work, assuming the character Chris Roberts during his 1994 recovery of Munch’s The Scream.

“The character I came up with was Chris Roberts, was a slightly dodgy, mid-Atlantic accented art dealer who was doing some buying for the Getty Museum in Europe,” said Hill.

This was not the first time Hill took on the persona of Chris Roberts. In a Country Life Magazine from March, 2009, Hill explained that sometime in 1983 he, “…put on a mid-Atlantic accent and posed as an art dealer who had Arab buyers lined up for the Vermeer. (i.e. Vermeer’s Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid)

Related Podcast Episode:
Kindly Stop Stealing the Munch! / Art Crime Podcast | Season 1, Episode 6