Walter Liedtke, the curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was one of six people killed in the Metro-North Valhalla train crash on Tuesday. Liedtke had worked at the museum for 35 years and contributed enormously to both the public and scholarly understanding of Dutch and Flemish painting.
Liedtke studied for his master’s degree at Brown and for his doctorate at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He taught at Ohio State for four years before joining the Metropolitan Museum in 1979 on a Mellon Fellowship, and became a curator the following year. During his time at the museum Liedtke worked on numerous major exhibition and publication projects: he contributed to the two-volume Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995 and 1996, and in 2007 published a comprehensive catalogue of the museum’s Dutch paintings. His curatorial projects included ‘Vermeer and the Delft School’ (2001), and ‘The Age of Rembrandt’ (2007). Most recently, he worked on ‘El Greco in New York’, a collaborative project with the Hispanic Society of America and the Frick Collection, which closed last Sunday. He wrote enthusiastically about the show – a curatorial departure for the Vermeer specialist – on this website in November: ‘[F]or several years I’ve studied our Spanish pictures as a serious hobby. At a certain age it’s rejuvenating to do something different.’
The Metropolitan Museum’s director, Thomas P. Campbell, confirmed Liedtke’s death in a statement on Wednesday. ‘Walter Liedtke was a brilliant, respected curator and scholar of Dutch and Flemish paintings…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’.