The Walters: the collectors behind the museum

Arayori, a peasant woman, carved by Yoshida Homei, is part of the Walters' East Asia collection.

Arayori, a peasant woman, carved by Yoshida Homei, is part of the Walters’ East Asia collection. The work is displayed in Rye to Raphael: the Walters Story among pieces from the Baltimoreans’ collection of European art.

Fit for a czar and the citizens of Baltimore, Faberge eggs are among the collection's show stoppers. The Rose Trellis Egg commemorates teh birth of the czar's son Alexie Nicholaevich. The czar presented the Gatchina Palace Egg to his mother. It opens to reveal the czar's winter palace.

Fit for a czar and the citizens of Baltimore, Faberge eggs are among the collection’s show stoppers. The Rose Trellis Egg commemorates the birth of the czar’s son Alexei Nicholaevich. The czar presented the Gatchina Palace Egg to his mother. It opens to reveal the czar’s winter palace.

Walk through the galleries of the Walters Art Museum and you’ll hear it: I didn’t know that was here.

Well, thank you, William and Henry Walters for your eye for wonderful art and decorative objects and thank you for giving them to the City of Baltimore.

The Baltimore Museum of Art has been in the news lately for the opening of its breathtaking  Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing and the reopening of the original doors as part of its centennial celebration. (More on that in a future post.) 

Meanwhile, farther downtown, the Walters is celebrating its creators, William T. Walters and his son Henry, who purchased art for more than 80 years. The pieces they collected are the pieces you find yourself standing before and saying, I didn’t know that was here.

The Walters Family gets its due in the Walters Museum's new exhibit Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story.

The Walters Family gets its due in the Walters Museum’s new exhibit Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story.

I am delighted to see an exhibit on the father and son duo with a glimpse of their lives and how and what they collected. William T. Walters was an astute businessman who invested the wealth gained from producing whiskey into steamships and railways. When he wasn’t working, he was collecting beautiful things. His son, Henry, inherited his business sense and his love of art. The Raphael alluded to in the exhibit’s name refers to a painting he bought — the first Madonna and Child by Raphael to come to the United States.

Luckily for Baltimore, he bequeathed all this beauty to the city.

A recreation of the gallery the Walters had installed in their townhouse in Mount Vernon.

A recreation of the gallery the Walters had installed in their townhouse in Mount Vernon.

Replicas of a catalogue William T. Walters had printed for all the artwork that hung on the walls of his gallery for an February 1994 reception.

Replicas of a catalogue William T. Walters had printed for all the artwork that hung on the walls of his gallery for an February 1994 reception.

The first gallery was located in their own Mount Vernon townhouse and in 1909 Henry opened the original museum on Charles Street. The museum has expanded to show more contemporary art and Asian art — and it can take more than a day to see and appreciate everything.

This exhibit on the fourth floor dazzles the eye and warms the heart. What do you like? French Impressionism…gigantic landscapes…jewelry and enamelware…sculpture…porcelain. It’s all here, including a suit of armor which I admired because my children always remembered that this is where they first saw armor.

What else did I see? Here’s a little sample of what caught my eye. But there’s so much more, plenty for a day away.

© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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