Wilhelm Valentiner

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Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner (May 2, 1880 – September 6, 1958) was a German art historian, art critic and museum official.


He is especially known through his writings on Flemish and Dutch painting. [1]


Wilhelm Valentiner was born at Karlsruhe (Baden), and studied at Heidelberg under Henry Thode, and in the Netherlands with Cornelis Hofstede de Groot and with Abraham Bredius, whose assistant he was at the Gallery of The Hague.

In 1905 he was called to Berlin by William Bode, under whom he worked at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum and the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin. In 1906 he published his dissertation on Rembrandt that he started in 1904: Rembrandt auf der Lateinschule.

New York City

In 1907 he was appointed the first curator of the department of decorative arts in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, which under his supervision became one of the foremost in the world.

World War I

At the start of World War I he returned to Germany to serve in the army. After service at the front in 1916, he was appointed to the general staff in Berlin.

American museums


From 1924-1945 he was appointed first advisor and then Director of the Detroit Museum of Art which later became the Detroit Institute of Arts. Under his leadership the museum developed into one of the leading art institutions in the country. His acquisitions and exhibitions in Detroit were products of his wide-ranging scholarship. He was a friend of Edsel Ford and conducted private seminars on the history of art for Ford's family. He was responsible for the series of murals painted by Diego Rivera, having met Rivera in California, and convinced Ford to under wright the cost of the murals. Titled Detroit Industry they were revolutionary for Detroit at the time and created considerable local controversy. His activities at the Detroit Institute of Arts included building an expert staff of curators, a vision of an encyclopedic collection and the creation of a resource for the local population. the state, and the Midwest.

He acquired American citizenship around 1930. In 1945 he had to resign from his post in Detroit due to a city legal age restriction.

Los Angeles

He was instrumental in the development of both the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

North Carolina

In 1955 he became the first Director of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, a position he maintained until his death in September 1958.


[2] [3]


Wilhelm Valentiner published:


  1. "The Passionate Eye: The Life of William Valentiner" by Margaret Stearns, wayne University Press,1980
  2. "The Passionate Eye: The Life of William Valentiner" by Margaret Stearns, wayne University Press,1980
  3. "The Detroit Institute of Arts: a Brief History" by William H. Peck, Wayne University Press, 1991

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.