FOR TWO DECADES, Richard H. Randall was Mr. Walters Art Gallery. As its director from 1965 to 1981, he led the campaign for a bond issue to fund its expansion, then supervised the building and installation of the new wing of 1974, tripling the exhibitions of the great collection assembled by William T. and Henry Walters and given by the latter to the people of Baltimore.
His public manner sometimes reinforced an image of the Walters as an unwelcoming private club -- always a bum rap, and one he did much to reverse. Affable and often witty in private, Mr. Randall was expert at running the museum on the endowment provided by the benefactor, that is on a shoestring, producing superior scholarship. He expanded the public education role and in 1980 produced Baltimore's first blockbuster art show -- greatly enlarging the public for the museum and tourism to Baltimore -- on jewelry throughout the ages.
But it was the 1974 wing for which he will most be remembered. An ambitious renovation and reinstallation is under way. Tastes may have changed on whether additions to older structures should reflect their own era. But the 1974 wing did the job of making the Walters a world class museum worthy of its previously too-little-seen collection.
After stepping down as director, Mr. Randall continued as curator of medieval collections for four more years. His wife, Lilian M. C. Walters, a renowned expert on medieval manuscripts, stayed on until this year. He was one of a handful of world authorities on European medieval ivory and initiated cooperation among them.
As an outgrowth of this activity, the Detroit Institute of Arts assembled an exhibition of the best Gothic ivory from the great museums of Europe and America. After showing there this spring, the show fittingly came to the Walters, where it will be on view through August, before the pieces go back to their homes.
Richard Randall's death by heart attack Thursday, at 71, came as the Randalls were preparing to move in retirement to Massachusetts. If the 1974 wing is Mr. Randall's monument, the ivory show is his memorial.
Pub Date: 7/07/97