Richard J. Wattenmaker, 76, author and art expert who studied under the legendary Violette de Mazia at the Barnes Foundation and then taught several popular courses there and in other institutions, died Aug. 12 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after a brief illness.

Mr. Wattenmaker wrote several books, including The Art of William Glackens, The Art of Charles Prendergast, American Paintings and Works on Paper in the Barnes Foundation, and Great French Paintings from the Barnes Foundation: Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Early Modern.

He also contributed to a number of exhibition catalogs, including the 2015 catalog for the Barnes exhibition Strength and Splendor: Wrought Iron from the Musee Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen.

Richard J. Wattenmaker
Barnes Foundation
Richard J. Wattenmaker

Mr. Wattenmaker lectured widely, most recently at the Barnes on the Russian painter Chaim Soutine and the wrought-iron collection. He was greatly intrigued by wrought iron, forming his own collection of American and European wrought-iron objects, many of which related to pieces in the Barnes collection.

Barbara Buckley, senior director of conservation and chief conservator of paintings at the Barnes, said Mr. Wattenmaker was an extraordinary man who was passionate about founder Albert C. Barnes and the collection. Mr. Wattenmaker "made a profound impact on so many of our lives and the intellectual history of the Barnes," she said.

Indeed, studying at the Barnes had a profound influence on Mr. Wattenmaker. He became de Mazia's student while still in his teens (he began with her in 1959) and returned intermittently to teach at the Barnes after his formal education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his bachelor's degree  in art history in 1963. He earned his master's (1965) and doctoral degrees (1972) from the New York University Institute of Fine Art.

Mr. Wattenmaker most recently taught a sold-out series of Barnes classes this year – "A Practical Approach to Art" – and, according to Barnes officials, received standing ovations from appreciative students after each class.

Beyond the Barnes, Mr. Wattenmaker was director of the Archives of American Art from 1990 to Oct. 1, 2005. He was a Smithsonian senior scholar for a year, which led to publication of American Paintings and Works on Paper in the Barnes Foundation in 2010.

Mr. Wattenmaker is survived by his wife, Eva, and sons Adrian and Barnaby.