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Metropolitan Museum Curator Walter Liedtke Killed in Train Crash

Walter Liedtke, curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum (photo courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Walter Liedtke, curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum (photo by Patrice Mattia, courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Walter Liedtke, a curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was one of six people killed in the Metro-North train crash last night in Valhalla, New York. He was 69.

“Walter was one of the preeminent scholars of Dutch and Flemish painting, whose contribution to the field lives on in a range of scholarly and popular publications,” the Met’s CEO and director, Thomas P. Campbell, wrote in an Instagram post.

This afternoon the museum released the following statement:

We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Walter Liedtke was a brilliant, respected curator and scholar of Dutch and Flemish paintings who was part of the Met family for 35 years. He organized dozens of major exhibitions that brought the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and many other great artists to millions of our visitors. He will long be remembered for his vast knowledge, his wit, and a passion for art that inspired all who came in contact with him.

Liedtke had been a curator at the Met since 1980, specializing in Dutch and Flemish paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries. He published catalogues of the museum’s permanent collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings, and curated several major exhibitions devoted to Rembrandt and Vermeer.

In spite of his curatorial achievements, Liedtke had initially set out to be an academic. After receiving his BA from Rutgers University, an MA from Brown University, and his PhD from the Courtauld Institute, he took a teaching job at Ohio State University. Four years later, in 1979, he received an Andrew W. Mellon fellowship from the Met and was subsequently offered a job by the head of the European painting department, John Pope-Hennessy.

“As a curator, what I like most about the Met is that there are about 105 of us in 17 departments, in addition to numerous research assistants, conservators and scientists (in five conservation departments), educators, librarians, editors, and many other specialists,” Liedtke told Codart in a 2009 interview. “As a consequence, the curator is able to focus on his or her areas of expertise.”

Liedtke’s passion for his field and facility for conveying his knowledge accessibly and engagingly are visible in a 2013 episode of the Met’s online video series 82nd & Fifth.

Liedtke lived in Westchester County with his wife, Nancy.

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