Obituary: Robert J. Koenig
Robert J. Koenig of Allentown, Pennsylvania, a former longtime director of the Montclair Art Museum and Montclair resident, died on Feb. 24, 2022, at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg. He was 86.
Born in 1935 in Union City, Mr. Koenig was the son of the late John and Albertina (Wolf) Koenig.
He graduated from Union Hill High School, Union City. He received a bachelor’s degree from Pratt Institute and a master’s from Yale University, both in fine arts.
Mr. Koenig retired as director of the African Art Museum of the SMA Fathers in Tenafly. Previously, he was employed by the Noyes Museum of Art in Hammonton, the Montclair Art Museum, the Morris Museum and the Newark Museum.
According to a resume provided by a family member, he was assistant director of the Montclair Art Museum from 1976 to 1978, associate director in 1979, and director from 1980 to 1991.
Ira Wagner, executive director of the museum, said in a statement: “It is with sadness that the Montclair Art Museum notes the recent death of Robert Koenig, director of MAM from 1980 to 1991. While his tenure predates that of most of our employees, he is remembered fondly by some of our longest serving art instructors, who commented that he treated the staff like an extended family.
“Mr. Koenig’s 11-year tenure included many notable benchmarks, including securing a substantial gift to the collection in 1985 from Mr. and Mrs. Henry M. Reed of more than 9,000 objects, including works and personal papers of Morgan Russell — a co-founder of Synchronism, the first American modernist art movement.
“Other notable additions to the collection under Mr. Koenig’s tenure include a significant collection of Currier & Ives prints and a special gift from Mrs. Florence F. Schumann that allowed the museum to expand its holdings of post-World War II American art with works by Louise Nevelson, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Richard Diebenkorn.
“In addition to many notable acquisitions for the collection, Mr. Koenig took many important steps in moving the museum in new directions, opening it up to the broader community and establishing educational programs with surrounding communities; these efforts continue to this day.“
Among Mr. Koenig’s volunteer activities, the resume said, he was a former president of the board of trustees of the Composers Guild of New Jersey, a member of the board of trustees of the New Jersey Opera Company and a member of Van Vleck House & Gardens.
Mr. Koenig was an associate professor for Seton Hall University’s graduate program for museum professions from 1992 to 1997, the resume said.
He enjoyed classical music, playing the piano, the outdoors, gardening, spending time at his lake cabin and his cats.
He was a member of the Yale Club.
Mr. Koenig is survived by nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife of 52 years, Audrey F. (Haase) Koenig, and a sister, Margaret Smolinski.
A private celebration of his life will be held on May 22 in Sussex County.
Arrangements were by the Strunk Funeral Home, Wilson Borough, Pennsylvania.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Center for Animal Health & Welfare, 1165 Island Park Road, Easton, PA 18042, healthyanimalcenter.org.