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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.
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 underwrite 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.
Wilhelm Valentiner published:
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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.