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German-Born Curator Launched N.C. Museum of Art

A holiday greeting card that is part of a collection of Valentiner’s papers held by the State ArchivesOn September 6, 1958, William R. Valentiner, former director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, died in New York after a short illness.

Born in Germany in 1880, Wilhelm Rheinhold Otto Valentiner came to the United States in 1908 as the curator of Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 1914, he returned to Germany and enlisted as a private in the German Army. There, in 1919, he joined the November Group, an organization of artists with socialist ideals. While in Germany, he advised the Detroit Institute of Arts on its acquisitions and, in 1924, one year after his returning to the U.S., he became the director of that institution. He became an American citizen in 1930.  In 1955, he was hired as the founding director of the North Carolina Museum of Art.

During his lifetime Valentiner founded and served as editor of two art journals and as Director General for the “Masterpieces of Art” exhibition for the 1939 World’s Fair. He left pieces from his personal art collection to the North Carolina Museum of Art, and the State Archives holds a significant collection of his personal papers.

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