John Walker was an art curator whose work as the second director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington developed the collections and stature of the museum. He received an undergraduate degree in art history from Harvard University and studied at Villa I Tatti in Florence with Bernard Berenson. He served as a professor and assistant director of the American Academy in Rome from 1935 to 1939. Walker became chief curator of the National Gallery of Art in 1939 and was involved in identifying works of art looted by the Nazis following World War II. In 1956 he was named director of the National Gallery, succeeding David Finley, and remained in the position until his retirement in 1969. During his tenure at the National Gallery, Walker cultivated donor relationships with collectors such as the Mellon family, Joseph Widener, Armand Hammer, and Chester Dale; his significant acquisitions included Rembrandt’s Aristotle with the Bust of Homer, Fragonard’s La Liseuse, El Greco’s Laocoon, and the Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo da Vinci. He wrote six books, including Bellini and Titian at Ferraraand his autobiography, Self-Portrait with Donors.
CFA Service: 1967–1971