In the art world, there are scholars and administrators.
Richard H. Randall Jr., who died this week, was both. The former Walters Art Gallery director combined a vast knowledge of medieval art with a canny ability to manage administrative details, large and small. Under his direction, the Walters tripled in size, growing from a quiet institution to a popular public destination.
Mr. Randall, 71, collapsed and died of heart failure Thursday while doing errands near his Roland Park home.
As director of the Walters from 1965 to 1981, Mr. Randall brought about a major expansion of the museum on Mount Vernon Place in downtown Baltimore after other attempts failed. His foremost achievement was the addition in 1974 of a $6.25 million building next to the gallery's original 1904 building, which tripled the institution's exhibit space.
He presided over such popular exhibits as "Japonisme" (1976), "Jewelry -- Ancient to Modern" (1980) and "African Image" (1980).
"The addition of the temporary exhibitions space, the auditorium and the museum shop brought the Walters into the arena of what museums are all about today, a public and civically engaged place," said Gary Vikan, the current Walters director.
Francis D. Murnaghan Jr., who was president and chairman of the Walters board of trustees during Mr. Randall's tenure, praised his undivided interest in the museum's well-being.
"He had the ability to do whatever needed to be done, and he was able to make people work with him in the interest of the Walters," Murnaghan said.
Mr. Randall, one of the leading authorities on medieval ivory carvings, also was the Walters' curator of medieval art. After retiring as director, he remained in the curator post until 1985.
"He was of a type that you don't see much or perhaps at all in the ranks of museums nowadays," said Vikan, "a very object-focused and sensitive connoisseur. He lived for the
thing itself. The first time I saw him at the Walters, he was opening a case of ivories and moving things around. His admonition to me was, 'Know your collections. Know the pieces.' "
Mr. Randall was a captivating raconteur who could make a collection such as the Walters seem a treasure trove of adventure and mystery with his tales of how works had been collected and what had been discovered about them.
In great demand as a speaker, he gave his last talk, about his years at the Walters, on May 28 to the 14 West Hamilton Street Club.
"It was not a lecture at all," recalled Anne Garside, a club member and a friend of Mr. Randall and his wife's. "It was one anecdote after another. He was sparkling and fascinating."
Mr. Randall was born Jan. 31, 1926, in Baltimore, the son of Richard H. and Mary Buzby Randall. After attending Calvert and Gilman schools here and Pomfret school in Pomfret, Conn., he served in World War II with the 4th Armored Division in France and Germany in 1944 and 1945.
He studied architecture at Princeton University, graduating in 1950, and earned a master's degree in art history from Harvard University the next year.
In 1953, he married Lilian M. C. Cramer, a fellow medievalist who from 1974 to 1997 was the Walters' curator of manuscripts and rare books, then research curator for manuscripts.
After stints at the New York Metropolitan Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Mr. Randall joined the Walters as assistant director in 1964. He became director the next year and immediately undertook raising money for the 1974 addition, seeking private funds and a $1 million bond issue from the city on the 1966 ballot.
Two previous bond issues had failed, but when it was suggested that part of the Walters collection be sold to finance the building rather than seek city money, Mr. Randall's reaction was characteristically strong.
"That is not what we're in business for," he said at the time. "If the present generation is unwilling to build a wing, the solution is not to sell part of the collection, but to wait until a future generation will appreciate what has been saved for them."
The bond issue passed, and the building went up.
Among his other accomplishments at the Walters, Mr. Randall was responsible for launching a major educational program, Explorations at the Walters, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
His books include "Masterpieces of Ivory from the Walters Art Gallery" (1985) and "The Golden Age of Ivory: Gothic Carvings in North American Collections" (1993).
When he retired, he was given the Andrew White medal by Loyola College for service to Maryland.
He was a member of the Walpole Society, the South River Club, the 14 West Hamilton Street Club, the Arms and Armour Club of London and the Arms Club of New York. He was a trustee of the Maryland Historical Society.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, Christopher H. Randall of Concord, Mass.; two daughters, Julia H. Randall of Oakland, Calif., and Katharine V. N. Randall of Tucson, Ariz.; a sister, Julia Randall of North Bennington, Vt.; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned at 11 a.m. July 19 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Cathedral and Read streets. Contributions in his name may be made to the Walters Art Gallery.
Pub Date: 7/05/97