YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Rudolf Wunderlich, 83; Gallery Owner, Expert on Western Art

September 28, 2004|Jon Thurber | Times Staff Writer

Rudolf G. Wunderlich, a leading expert on Western Americana who owned galleries in New York and Chicago, has died. He was 83.

Wunderlich died of complications from Alzheimer's disease at a nursing home in Fountain Valley on Wednesday, according to his wife, Susan. He retired for health reasons and moved to Southern California in 1998.

Wunderlich appraised art for some of the leading museums in the country, including the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Okla.; the Autry National Center in Los Angeles; the Frederic Remington Museum in Ogdensburg, N.Y.; the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

"He had an extraordinary knowledge and appreciation for Western art," said Sarah Boehme, curator of Western art at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. "Throughout the years, he had been very helpful in bringing to our attention works that became part of our collection."

In addition to his work with leading museums, he advised a number of private collectors, including H. Ross Perot, and assisted Jacqueline Kennedy as she set up the White House collection in the early 1960s.

"He was one of the greatest dealers of American art in the 20th century and certainly sold more Western art than anyone else," said Gerald Peters, a leading gallery owner in Santa Fe, N.M., and New York City. "He had a huge influence on the field."

Wunderlich was identified as the leading expert on the sculpture of Remington and became an authority on the artist's bronzes, sorting out reproductions and fakes from original castings.

Wunderlich was born in Tarrytown, N.Y. His grandfather, Herman Wunderlich, was in the gallery business in New York City and had the first New York show for artist James McNeil Whistler. His father, Herman Jr., was also an art dealer.

Rudolf went into the family gallery business after prep school and became president of the Kennedy Galleries when his father died in 1951.

Under Rudolf Wunderlich, the gallery specialized in American paintings of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. From the 1950s to the '70s, it was a leading dealer in American art. Wunderlich was also an expert in 19th century American prints and 20th century American fine prints from Whistler to Edward Hopper. He was also on the original art advisory panel for the Internal Revenue Service.

In 1985, he moved to Chicago and became president of the Mongerson-Wunderlich Galleries, a post he held until his retirement. The gallery is now known as Mongerson Galleries.

Wunderlich was also a collector of 19th century American stamps and formed one of the leading collections of proofs and essays. His collections won numerous awards. He also served on the board of the Philatelic Foundation.

In addition to his wife, Wunderlich is survived by sons Gerald Wunderlich of New York City, Theodore Wunderlich of Sebastopol Calif., and John Wunderlich of Ossining, N.Y.; stepchildren Tyler Mongerson, Tina Smith and Lindsey Mongerson, all of Chicago; nine grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and a sister, Roberta Chamberlain of Akron, Ohio.

Los Angeles Times Articles