Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner papers, 1853-1977

Valentiner, Wilhelm Reinhold, b. 1880 d. 1958
Art historian, Museum director, Author
Active in New York, N.Y.; Detroit, Mich.; Raleigh, N.C.

This site provides access to the papers of Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2016, and total 13,897 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.


Collection size: 6.9 linear feet

Collection Summary: The papers of art historian and museum director Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner measure 6.9 linear feet and date from 1853 to 1977. Found within the collection are biographical materials, including information on the Lepsius and Valentiner families; correspondence with family, friends, art collectors, and art historians; seven diaries; additional writings and notes; printed materials; three clippings scrapbooks; artwork in the form of prints and woodcuts; and photographs of Valentiner and his family and friends, including two photograph albums.

Biographical/Historical Note: Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner (1880-1958) was a museum director, writer, and art historian who lived in New York, New York, Detroit,Michigan, and Raleigh, North Carolina and was known for his leadership and collection development during his tenure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Born in Karlsruhe, Germany. Director, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1924-1946, Director-Consultant, Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1946-1954, Director, Getty Museum, Santa Monica, California, 1954, Director, North Carolina Museum of Art, 1955-1958. Editor, Art in America, 1913-1931, and author of books on Dutch painting and modern sculpture.

From 1972 to 1977, Valentiner's papers were gathered from various sources by historian Margaret Sterne who was researching and writing a biography of Valentiner. Sterne died just prior to publication and the papers were sorted by Archives' staff and returned to the lender when known. After publication of the biography, the bulk of the papers were returned to their respective lenders (primarily the University of North Carolina) and the remaining papers were sorted and accessioned by the Archives. Donors are listed as unknown or anonymous.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

How to Use this Collection

  • Read the Finding Aid for this digitized collection
  • The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2016 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been scanned include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages scanned.
  • Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archvies' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
  • For more information on using the Archives’ resources, see the FAQ or Ask Us.

Related Materials

In 1981 and earlier, the Archives microfilmed the William R. Valentiner papers that were on deposit from the North Carolina Museum of Art onto reels D31 and 2140-2144. The papers were returned to the North Carolina Museum of Art, but the microfilm is still available for use at the Archives research centers and for interlibrary loan. Reel D31 includes diary entries, 1914-1957, describing Valentiner's service in the German army, 1914-1918, with the War Information Office in Berlin, the overthrow of the monarchy and German politics, relations between Germany and Russia and communist activity in Germany, the administration of Berlin museums and radical artists' activities, his work with the L.A. County Museum, Detroit Institute of Fine Arts, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and private collectors, impressions of friends, including Henry Ford, Carl Hamilton, the Hohenzollerns, Franz Marc, Rainer Maria Rilke, Walter Rathenau, Helen Wills, Benjamin Altman, J. Pierpont Morgan, and recollections of women art collectors, including Mrs. August Belmont, Rita Lydig, and Mrs. Leonard Thomas. A very small portion of the filmed materials may be found among the Valentiner papers at the Archives, but most of the materials were returned to the North Carolina Museum of Art. Loaned materials on reels 2140-2144 consist of 26 diaries, 1904-1958; autobiographical writings; manuscripts and lectures by Valentiner; correspondence with family, friends, authors, museums, galleries, and dealers, including Harry Bertoia, Charles Culver, Lyonel and Julia Feininger, Walter Gropius, Paul and Mary Weschler, and Morris Graves; and a scrapbook containing clippings, drafts of speeches, and invitations.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are the Mary E. Adams letters from Wilhelm Valentiner and an oral history interview with Mary and Clinton Adams conducted by Paul Karlstrom, April 24, 1998. The North Carolina Museum of Art also holds papers of Wilhelm Valentiner, most of which are also avai