Published: February 3, 2015
NEW YORK CITY — The news that Walter Liedtke, 69, was among the six victims of the evening train crash in Valhalla, N.Y., on February 3 left the museum world in mourning for one of its own.
A curator in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s European paintings department for 35 years, Liedtke was renowned for his scholarship on Dutch and Flemish paintings in particular, as well as his generosity of spirit in sharing his knowledge in books, lectures and conversation. “Walter was an original. Always nattily dressed, his hair just so and his mustache perfect, he seemed to have emerged from another era rather than from an office on the second floor. And he had opinions: deep, strong, expressive opinions. Those opinions and his vigor in delivering them will be among the many things that we will miss,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A leading scholar of Dutch and Flemish paintings, Liedtke was deeply devoted to his department, which included the Met’s renowned Rembrandts and Vermeers. The author of several publications for the Met, including Vermeer: The Complete Paintings (2012) and Frans Hals: Style and Substance (2011) and a co-author of Vermeer and the Delft School (2013), he wrote about 50 articles and books over the years.
The New Jersey-born curator earned his bachelor’s degree at Rutgers, a master’s at Brown and a doctorate at London’s Courtauld Institute, and originally set out to teach, working as a professor at Ohio State University in the 1970s for four years before receiving a Mellon Fellowship and then getting a job at the Met.
He lived in Bedford Hills, N.Y., and is survived by his wife, Nancy. In a video for the Met’s website, called Living with Vermeer, he said, “I think there is something Dutch about the way I live. To go home from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to the countryside is a nice contrast,” he says, talking about their 100-year-old small country house, where the couple takes care of horses.
Old Masters dealer Robert Simon, who has known Liedtke professionally for a long time, told artnet.com of the curator’s talent in sharing his love of art and inspiring and educating others. “He loved the art, loved to study it, loved to talk about it … the enthusiasm to communicate was always there. And of course he had phenomenal examples of the greatest Dutch artists to play with. His exhibitions on Rembrandt and Vermeer were nothing short of triumphs. His public persona was formal, a bit austere, and very serious, but he was generous, witty, and warm. He was hugely respected and will be much missed.”
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