Obituary: Leonard J. Slatkes (1930-2003)
Leonard J. Slatkes, Professor of Art History at Queens College and Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, a leading expert in the field of Dutch art history, died suddenly of a heart attack on August 22 in New York City. He was 73.
Leonard was best known for his many publications on the Dutch followers of Caravaggio. His first book, on Dirck van Baburen, published in 1965, remains the standard work on that artist. In collaboration with the Dutch art historian Albert Blankert, he conceived and wrote the catalogue of the major exhibition on Hendrik Terbrugghen held at Utrecht and Braunschweig in 1986-1987. Leonard also published a complete catalogue of Rembrandt’s paintings in 1992 as well as books on Vermeer (1981, 2nd ed.1996)and catalogues on seventeenth-century Dutch printmakers. Numerous articles extended his interests to the work of Hieronymus Bosch, Caravaggio’s iconography, the development of nocturnal scenes in painting, and many other subjects. One theme that ties together much of his research is the exchange of artistic ideas between Italy and the Netherlands.
Leonard loved to be in The Netherlands. His close ties with the country were formed when he earned his PhD at the University of Utrecht in 1962 under the direction of Jan van Gelder. This followed an MA from Oberlin College received in 1954 and a BFA degree from Syracuase University where he graduated cum laude in1952. Between 1954 and 1956 Leonard served in the US Army at the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission,Panmunjom, Korea.
Leonard Slatkes was an inspiring teacher as well as a distinguished scholar. After teaching at the University of Chicago and the University of Pittsburgh he joined the faculty of Queens College in 1966 where he remained until his death. He combined his position at Queens with an appointment to the Faculty of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Leonard was known for captivating lectures that introduced many students to the delights of art history and attracted a good number to the field of Dutch and Flemish art. His lectures about Honthorst, Terbrugghen,and Baburen opened a window onto a magical world that we did not even know existed. He communicated a deep appreciation of painting that carried over as well into his expertise as a connoisseur, for which he was consulted by art dealers and auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Leonard was a jovial and satirical character, fitting some of the pictures he enjoyed talking and writing about. He is survived by his sister Beverly Wasserman.