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(Q19754059)

English

Otto Wittmann

museum director and Monument Man

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14 July 2001
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Otto Wittmann died in Montecito, California on July 14, 2001, the same year in which the Toledo Museum of Art celebrated its 100th Anniversary. In honor of the leader more responsible for its success than any other, the museum published Otto Wittmann: A Museum Man for All Seasons. (English)
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Upon his return home to the United States in 1946, Wittmann began a thirty-year career at the Toledo Museum of Art which included his appointment to Director in 1959. Under his leadership, the museum established internationally-ranked education programs, tripled its collection, and doubled its exhibition space. His keen eye and innate understanding of the art market guided acquisitions of some of the best American, Dutch, and seventeenth-century Italian and French paintings available. He organized numerous successful exhibitions, including France: The Splendid Century (1961) and The Age of Rembrandt (1966). In honor of his retirement in 1976, the museum presented Treasures for Toledo, a retrospective of his most notable acquisitions. (English)
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Wittmann’s success at the Toledo Museum of Art attracted the attention of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. In 1976, following the death of its founder, billionaire oil baron J. Paul Getty, the museum became the sole beneficiary of a $700 million estate (today, almost $3 billion). The museum’s board of trustees, which consisted of businessmen with little knowledge of art, enlisted the help of Wittmann, who guided the museum through its most transformative period. From 1978 to 1989 he served as chair of the museum’s acquisition committee, vastly expanding its collection by acquiring Greek and Roman antiquities, French decorative arts, and Old Masters outside the spending limit of typical museums. His election to trustee in 1979 and appointment to acting chief curator in 1980 effectively placed the museum within his sole control. In 1980 he established the J. Paul Getty Museum Trust, which endures today as one of the world’s leading providers of international grants for the humanities. In 1987 he was awarded the American Association of Museums’ Award for Distinguished Service to Museums. (English)
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Biographical/Historical NoteOtto Wittmann (1911-2001) was a museum director and consultant from Toledo, Ohio. (English)
11 February 2019
From 1979 to 1989 Mr. Wittmann was a trustee and consultant to the J. Paul Getty Trust as well as chairman of the Getty Museum's acquisitions committee. (English)
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24 May 2019
Befriended by the urbanite New Yorker Perry Rathbone, who himself had decided to become an art museum director, Wittmann and Rathbone toured the galleries of New York and Boston during their leisure. At Harvard, Wittmann enrolled in the French art history painting course of Paul J. Sachs. Wittmann and Rathbone organized exhibitions on Ben Shahn, Max Ernst and Walter Gropius for the Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, an organization founded by undergraduates Edward M. "Eddie" Warburg, John Walker and Lincoln Kirstein (1907-1996). After graduation in 1933--he and Rathbone turned the gallery over to John Coolidge--he joined the fledgling William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art (today, Nelson-Atkins Museum) in his native Kansas City, under director Paul Gardner and Harvard classmate Philip Beam. Lacking money for graduate school, Wittmann convinced Sachs to allow him participate in his famous "Museum course" as Sach's assistant, though he never enrolled (English)
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Otto Wittmann, former director of the Toledo Museum of Art, died on July 14 in Montecito, Calif. He was 89.Mr. Wittmann, who retired from the Toledo Museum in 1977, was widely credited with having built it into a world-class institution. He made notable acquisitions in the fields of French, Dutch and Italian painting and organized many shows of European art, including ''The Age of Rembrandt'' and ''The Splendid Century.''From 1979 to 1989 Mr. Wittmann was a trustee and consultant to the J. Paul Getty Trust as well as chairman of the Getty Museum's acquisitions committee. He was also an original member of the National Council on the Arts and served on advisory panels of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He also served twice as president of the American Association of Art Museum Directors and former director of the College Art Association. (English)

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