July 2nd, 2010 | 2:05 pm
James N. Wood, long time director of the Art Institute of Chicago (1980-2004) and more recently President and CEO of the Getty Trust, died recently. I met Jim Wood more than 3 years ago at the memorial service for one of his great mentors, Monuments Man S. Lane Faison, Jr, his college professor of art history at Williams College. Jim was one of a group of prominent students who went on to lead some of our nation’s greatest museums including Rusty Powell (Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.), Jack Lane (former Director of the Dallas Museum of Art), and Kirk Varnadoe Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art.
I remember well the moving story Jim Wood told about Lane visiting the Art Institute for a tour of some of the great works and the dramatic moment that brought Lane to his feet when standing before a great work of art. The esteem and affection this once student felt for his old teacher was still evident after all those years. Everyone was brought to tears as the telling of this story came alive.
Jim Wood leaves a lengthy and worthy legacy of scholarship and contribution to the arts at these two and other institutions. His connection to the Monuments Men was considerable as many of his peers once served the MFAA; others studied and worked for men and women who were Monuments officers. These first line connections to this great part of our history are something to cherish while we still have them. They underscore the urgency with which we continue to gather all aspects of the story of the Monuments Men.