Art dealer, connoisseur and art historian. Wildenstein was the son of Nathan Wildenstein (1851-1934), the founder of the art gallery that bore their name. The younger Wildenstein began working in his father's firm in 1910, assuming the head in 1934 at his father's death. Wildenstein added masterworks of the Impressionists and post impressionists to the gallery's holding, developing vast holdings from which top collectors could chose. He also developed the firm's legendary art reference libraries, considered to be among the finest in the world. Wildenstein took over as publisher of the Gazette des Beaux Arts from Théodore Reinach (1860-1928). In 1924 he founded his own weekly serial, Arts. Though Wildenstein was less interested in twentieth-century art, he assisted the Surrealists in the 1930s, lending them a gallery in which to stage their International Surrealist exhibition. In 1932 Wildenstein hired architect Horace Trumbauer to design the New York galleries at East 64th Street, in a regal five storey building. As an art dealer, Wildenstein was famous for turning a profit on great works of art. Between 1923 and 1955, Wildenstein sold one Toulouse Lautrec painting five times, its price having jumped from $1800 to $275,000. In 1956 he appointed the curator of prints at the Bibliothèque nationale, Jean Adhémar, to be editor of the Gazette, a brilliant move who expanded the scope of the journal. Wildenstein was an authority on Gauguin and wrote knowledgeable texts on Ingres and Chardin. At his death in 1963 the Gazette and the firm were taken over by his son, Daniel Wildenstein. The (London) Times' obituary described Wildenstein as Duveen's heir, not entirely a complement. Wildenstein's heirs have had to fend off accusations that the elder man accepted stolen paintings from the Nazis during the French occupation to sell for them.
Ingres. London: Phaidon, 1954; Ingres. London: Phaidon Press, 1956; Manet. Paris: Les Beaux-arts, édition d'études et de documents, 1932; Chardin. Zürich: Manesse, 1963; Gauguin. Paris: Beaux-Arts, 1964.
Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire d l'art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 246-251; [Obituary] Gazette des Beaux-Arts 62 Series 6 (July 1963): p. supplement I-II