Walter Liedtke

Walter Liedtke RIP

Renowned Curator of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art killed in train crash on Tuesday

We were very sad to learn that a train crash in Valhalla, New York, that occurred on Tuesday night took the life of author, lecturer and Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Walter Liedtke. 

Walter was a renowned expert on both Vermeer and Rembrandt and had been with the Met for over 35 years, during which time he oversaw the restoration and ongoing curation of the museum’s 228 Dutch and 100 Flemish paintings. He had organised a number of significant blockbusters for the Met, including Vermeer and the Delft School in 2001 and The Age of Rembrandt - visited by over half-a-million people - in 2007. More recently, Walter wrote the foreword for our forthcoming Rembrandt Classic 2015 book.

In a poignant tribute, Met Director Thomas P Campbell called Liedtke “one of our most esteemed curators and one of the most distinguished scholars of Dutch and Flemish painting in the world.”

Liedtke’s interest in Dutch art even extended a little to his own lifestyle. He once said: “I think there is something Dutch about the way I live. To go home every day from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to the countryside is a really nice contrast. At the essential level, what's the most Dutch about it is this constant return to immediate experience."

Walter raised horses and could apparently often be found clearing the stables at 6.30 in the morning before boarding the train to work. His habit apparently was to sit in the front coach, a designated quite area, to work and read on his journey to the Met. 

In his beautifully written foreword to the reissued Rembrandt, the respected scholar revealed that the original version of the book was, in fact, the first art book he ever owned. Reflecting a little on his career, in the reissue, Walter wrote:

“It can be an odd profession: the serious, meticulous and usually solitary scrutiny of beautiful and profound objects, which most people experience in a more relaxed manner, perhaps as a refreshing escape from their professional lives. One might draw as a comparison the study of oceanography in a landlocked country in contrast to diving from a boat into a crystalline sea.”

We’re happy that Phaidon played a tiny part in inspiring a young man to forge a career that brought so many people so much joy over the years. RIP Walter Liedtke.