Diana H.D. Blake, 73, artwork manager

February 23, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Diana Hunt Diederich Blake, who was well known in Baltimore art circles and managed works of her artist father, died Tuesday of complications from a stroke at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She was 73.

The longtime resident of Bolton Hill had moved recently to the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville.

She inherited historic and artistic material, and devoted much of her energy to that and to the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1973.

"She was a very visual person, and she took tremendous joy in the world around her," Romaine S. Somerville, president of the Baltimore City Historical Society, said yesterday. "She noticed everything visual and made you notice it and enjoy it."

A daughter of the late German sculptor William Hunt Diederich, she sent pieces to museums for exhibits and corresponded with private collectors and art dealers.

She served as a source of information about her father. A grandson of American painter William Morris Hunt, William Hunt Diederich was known for highly stylized representations of animals.

A large collection of photographs, manuscripts and documents in her possession included the diary kept by the wife of her great-grandfather when the couple were in Europe in the mid-19th century purchasing paintings for the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

She also maintained a collection of papers and photographs related to the life of her grandfather Count Gustav Adolf von Goetzen, who served as a governor of German East Africa. She shared them with German scholars and libraries.

Her ancestors also included Bernard-Rene Jordan, Marquis de Launay, who was a commander at the Bastille when the French fortress was stormed and whose head was paraded through the streets.

She was born in New York City and raised mostly in the international art cultures of France, Germany and Mexico, moving often as her father's career took the family around the globe.

She was enrolled four years at Marywood Seminary, a small Catholic boarding school for girls in Scranton, Pa., graduating in 1950.

She served in the Women's Army Corps from 1953 to 1955, then moved to Baltimore, where she had relatives.

She loved to travel, and years ago worked for travel agencies and held jobs at the Baltimore Zoo and Peale Museum. She also taught at the Jemicy School and Villa Julie College.

Upon her father's death in 1953, she inherited a medieval castle, a fortress called Burg Tann, near Nuremberg, Germany. Her father had bought it when her parents married, and she recounted childhood stories of gatherings there that included gala costume parties.

She later spent summers restoring the castle, and her friends visited there, said longtime friend Adele Gray of Baltimore.

She sold the castle to the local government, and it serves as a museum, said Charles Hansen, a nephew in New Fairfield, Conn.

In Bolton Hill, she was known as a vivacious hostess.

She regularly had international students and visiting faculty of the Maryland Institute College of Art stay with her. As she was fluent in German and Spanish and had an eye for art, the hospitality provided much-appreciated support for the college, said Douglas L. Frost, vice president for development.

In 1973, she married physicist F. Gilman Blake, who helped develop the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and later worked to strengthen nuclear test bans. He died in 1991.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. March 6 at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church, at Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues.

Survivors include a half-sister, Sybil Diederich Hansen of Bethel, Conn.

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