Art Scholar Richard Wunder Donates
Personal Library to Hope College
Posted March 31, 2003
HOLLAND -- Richard Wunder never attended Hope
College, but he is having a lasting impact on those who do.
Wunder, an art scholar who died on Sunday, Aug. 4,
2002, at age 79, left the college more than 4,500 books
through his estate. The gift complements the several
thousand books he had already donated to the college since
The volumes, more than 15,000 collectively, have
been designated the "Richard Wunder Collection." According
to David Jensen, director of libraries, together they
provide Hope "with one of the finest college art history
collections in the Midwest."
"I think this is an outstanding addition to our
collection, particularly in art and art history," he said.
"This was a scholar's collection, and there are some very
fine works here."
"He had wide-ranging interests in art, so there
are volumes on architecture, painting, sculpture, interiors,
decoration, jewelry, fashion," Jensen said. "I don't know
of any area of art in which he did not have some material."
The bequest includes a mix of books published from
the 18th century to the present. In addition to volumes
concerned with art and art history, the collection is rich
in biographies, social histories, literary works, and works
on religion and travel.
The gift also includes the research material that
Wunder had collected while writing a book about American
sculptor Hiram Powers, as well as Wunder's personal
correspondence and unfinished memoir. A variety of other
items were included in the bequest, among them formal
clothing and furnishings, and have been shared with
departments ranging from the department of theatre to the
Joint Archives of Holland to the college's physical plant.
Wunder was introduced to Hope by John Dryfhout, a
1964 Hope graduate who is superintendent and chief curator
of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, N.H.
Dryfhout was doing graduate work at the University of
Michigan in the mid-1960s when he first met Wunder, who was
visiting as guest curator. They became friends as their
professional paths crossed in later years.
When in the early 1980s Wunder shared his concerns
about his library, which he'd placed in storage when he had
moved from his large house to a New York apartment, Dryfhout
suggested a destination that could make a lasting
"I said, 'Have you ever considered the possibility
that this collection might be a great anchor for a
college?,'" Dryfhout said. "'This would make a fantastic
collection for my college library.'"
That Wunder acted on the suggestion, Dryfhout
said, was completely in character.
"He was an extremely generous person," he said.
"He was generous not only to Hope College, but also to many
institutions and individuals all over the country."
Wunder, who lived most recently in La Jolla,
Calif., was a past president of appraisals and estates with
Christie, Manson and Woods International in New York City.
He was founding director of the Cooper-Hewitt, National
Design Museum (now part of the Smithsonian Institution) in
New York City, having previously served as curator of
drawings and prints at the Cooper Union Museum. He had been
a senior research fellow in art, assistant director, and
curator of painting and sculpture with the National
Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian (now Smithsonian
American Art Museum, Washington D.C.). He had also been an
assistant in the Department of Drawings with the Fogg Art
Museum at Harvard University. He had been a visiting
professor at Middlebury College in Vermont.
He was a past member of the Pierpont Morgan
Library Council, and had currently been serving as a trustee
of the Saint-Gaudens site. He was an active Episcopalian
and was named a knight of the Venerable Order of St. John of
Jerusalem in 1987. He was on the board of A Christian
Ministry in the National Parks.
Wunder's books included "Extravagant Drawings of
the Eighteenth Century in the Cooper Union Museum,"
"Frederic Edwin Church" and the two-volume "Hiram Powers:
Vermont Sculptor, 1805-1873."
He received the Smithsonian Institution's Charles
Eldredge Prize in 1992 for his work on Powers. Hope
presented him with an honorary degree in April of 1999.
Wunder served as an officer with the United States
Army during both World War II and the Korean War. He held
his bachelor's, master's and doctorate from Harvard.