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The Toledo Museum of Art mourns the passing of long-time friend Richard R. Silverman

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Art Museum, Toledo Museum
Richard Silverman at the Tile Club

Richard (Richie) grew up on Scottwood Avenue, where he formed an early love for the Museum and the arts that would become a major part of his life. He took classes in the Museum’s School of Design for more than a decade, while also earning degrees from Brandeis University, the University of Michigan and the University of Toledo.


Richard’s first foray to the Far East was as a soldier in 1956. He became fascinated with the region’s customs and art, and though he returned to Toledo after his stint in the military, his love for Asia led to an eventual 15-year stay in Tokyo.

Richard became an art collector and adapted to Japan’s famously tight spaces by turning his focus to the tiny, yet meticulously crafted, netsuke. Invented in the 17th century, netsuke worked as a kind of toggle for hanging sagemono, purse-like containers, from the belt of a kimono. Fashionable men collected these small, carved accessories, which depicted everything from landscapes to people.


In an interview from 2013, Richard said, “the finest were like miniature Michelangelos.” “I loved them all, from those made in the early 17th to 18th centuries to contemporary works. I traveled the width and length of Japan to sightsee and find more netsuke.”


Richard amassed a serious collection of netsuke over 40 years, and in the 1980s, he began to donate significant examples to the Toledo Museum of Art. These gifts included more than 200 ceramic netsuke (a relatively rare material for the genre), as well as a selection of 20th-century netsuke made by the Okawa school, a group of carvers first identified by Silverman himself.

Former TMA Director Brian Kennedy noted that Richard made a major impact on the Museum’s collection and that through his generosity, the Museum is able to share with the public one of the most spectacular collections of netsuke in the country.


While he lived the later years of his life in Los Angeles, Richard always returned to visit Toledo. During his last visit just this past September, he was working with the Museum to give additional netsuke and works to complement the collection he helped form.

With profound regret, the Museum acknowledges the loss of a dear and dedicated friend. We offer our deepest sympathy to Richard’s family and friends.