Walter Liedtke, 1945-2015


Walter Liedtke, curator of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art died Tuesday in a train accident. He was one of six victims. Liedtke was headed home to Bedford Hills, NY when his train reportedly hit an SUV on the tracks. He had worked at the Museum for 35 years.

Liedtke, 69, was one of the world’s most distinguished scholars of Dutch and Flemish painting. After earning a master’s degree from Brown and a Ph.D from the Courtauld Institute, he taught briefly at Ohio State until receiving the Metropolitan Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship. In 1980, he left academia to become a full-time museum curator. 

His career was marked with influential exhibitions, including “Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art” in 1995 and 1996, and “The Age of Rembrandt” in 2007. His 2001 show, “Vermeer and the Delft School” was the world’s most popular art exhibition that year, attracting 555,000 visitors during its three-month run.

Liedtke published many books throughout his career, including a comprehensive catalogue examining the Met’s extensive collection of Dutch paintings. 

In 2013, during an International Fine Arts Consortium panel regarding the Detroit Institute of Arts, Liedtke denounced the troubled museum’s potential deacquisition of masterworks. He took a firm stance, asserting, “The important thing to say is that institutions like yours, like my museum—the curators in my department would all resign if the Metropolitan Museum placed a single bid for any one of your objects, even in another department. I know that’s true.”