Background on the Walters Art Museum
In 1931, the city of Baltimore received one of its greatest treasures when Henry Walters (1848-1931) bequeathed his collection of 22,000 works of art to his native city “for the benefit of the public.” The Walters bequest is still considered among the greatest acts of cultural philanthropy in our nation’s history. William Walters (1819-94), Henry’s father, had assembled a splendid collection of 19th-century art and Asian art and under his son’s auspices the collection was transformed into one of the finest of all American private collections. Henry Walters’ interests were boundless, ranging over 5,000 years, from ancient Egypt to Art Nouveau. Although significantly expanded, the museum’s strength and scope continue to reflect Mr. Walters’ collecting genius and philanthropic spirit.
Today, the museum bearing the Walters’ family name is a cultural institution of international renown, one of only a few museums worldwide to present a comprehensive history of art from the third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. In his latest book, Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and respected art expert, distinguishes the Walters Art Museum as ”...piece-for-piece, the best art museum in the United States.” Among its thousands of treasures, the Walters Art Museum holds the finest collection of ivories, jewelry, enamels and bronzes in America and a spectacular reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books. The Walters’ Egyptian, Greek and Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian and western medieval art collections are among the best in the nation, as are the museum’s holdings of Renaissance and Asian art. Every major trend in French painting during the 19th century is represented by one or more works in the Walters’ collection.