Walters Art Museum

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Walters Art Museum
Walters-museum-building 1.jpg
Charles Street entrance to the Walters Art Museum
Established 1934
Location Mount Vernon Baltimore, Maryland
Type Art museum
Director Julia Marciari-Alexander
Website Official website
Walters Art Museum logo
Sculpture Garden of the Walters Art Gallery (now Walters Art Museum)

The Walters Art Museum, located in the City of Baltimore, Maryland's Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood, is a public art museum founded and opened in 1934, with collections being created going back to the mid-19th Century. The museum's collection was amassed substantially by major American art and sculpture collectors, a father and son: William Thompson Walters (William T. Walters), (1819–1894), who began serious collecting when he moved to Paris at the outbreak of the American Civil War; and Henry Walters (1848–1931), who refined the collection and rehoused it in an elaborate stone palazzo styled structure built for that purpose in 1905-1909, which he occasionally opened then for citizens to tour the rapidly growing collections. Located on the northwest corner of North Charles Street at West Centre Street, (at South Washington Place), also just south of the landmark Washington Monument in the Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood, just north of the downtown business district and southeast of Cathedral Hill. Upon his 1931 death, Henry Walters bequeathed the collection of over 22,000 works, the original Charles Street gallery building, and his adjacent townhouse/mansion just across the alley to the north on West Mount Vernon Place to the City of Baltimore, “for the benefit of the public.” The collection, first known for seventy years as the "Walters Art Gallery", includes masterworks of ancient Egypt, Greek sculpture and Roman sarcophagi, medieval ivories, illuminated manuscripts, Renaissance bronzes, Old Master and 19th-century paintings, Chinese ceramics and bronzes, Art Deco jewelry, and ancient Near East, Mesopotamian, or ancient Middle East items.

At the beginning of the new millennium, the 21st Century, the Walters Art Gallery changed its name to the Walters Art Museum in 2000 to reflect its image as a large public institution (held in trust by the City, with substantial contributions from surrounding suburban counties and the State of Maryland grants) and eliminate confusion among some of the increasing out-of-state visitors, that the Gallery was a private institution. The following year, "The Walters" (as it is often known in the City) reopened its largest main original building after a dramatic three-year physical renovation and replacement of internal utilities and infrastructure. The Walters Art Museum is where the "Archimedes Palimpsest" is on loan from a private collector for conservation and spectral imaging studies.

Starting Sunday, October 1, 2006, the Walters Art Museum and the more recently established Baltimore Museum of Art, which focuses on modern and eclectic art, (founded 1914), located further to the north on Charles Street at Art Museum Drive (in Charles Village, adjacent to the "Homewood" campus of The Johns Hopkins University, began having free admission year-round as a result of substantial grants given by Baltimore City and the surrounding suburban Baltimore County arts authorities.[1] In 2012, "The Walters" released nearly 20,000 of its own images of its collections on a Creative Commons license, and collaborated in their upload to the "world-wide web" and the internet on "Wikimedia Commons".[2] This was one of the largest and most comprehensive such releases made by any museum.[2]

Coordinates: 39°17′48″N 76°36′58″W / 39.29667°N 76.61611°W / 39.29667; -76.61611

Permanent collection[edit]

Ancient art[edit]

The Walters' collection of ancient art includes examples from Egypt, Nubia, Greece, Rome, Etruria and the Near East. Highlights include two monumental 3,000-pound statues of the Egyptian lion-headed goddess Sekhmet; the Walters Mummy; alabaster reliefs from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II; Greek gold jewelry, including the Greek bracelets from Olbia on the shores of the Black Sea; the Praxitelean Satyr; a large assemblage of Roman portrait heads; a Roman bronze banquet couch, and marble sarcophagi from the tombs of prominent Licinian and Calpurnian families.

Art of the ancient Americas[edit]

In 1911, Henry Walters purchased almost 100 gold artifacts from the Chiriqui region of western Panama in Central America, creating a core collection of ancient American native art. Through subsequent gifts of art and loans, the Museum has added works, mostly in pottery and stone, from Central and South America, including pieces from the "Mesoamerican" Olmec, Aztec, and Mayan cultures, as well as the Moche and Inca peoples of South America.

Asian art[edit]

Highlights of the Asian art collection assembled earlier by William and Henry Walters include Japanese arms and armor, and Chinese and Japanese porcelains, lacquers, and metalwork. Among the museum's outstanding works of Asian art is a late 12th- or early 13th-century Cambodian bronze of the eight-armed Avalokiteshvara, a T’ang Dynasty earthenware camel, and an intricately painted Ming Dynasty wine jar. The museum owns the oldest surviving Chinese wood-and-lacquer image of the Buddha (late 6th Century .A.D.). It is exhibited in a gallery dedicated solely to this work.

The Museum holds one of the largest and finest collections of Thai bronze, scrolls, and banner paintings in the world.

Islamic art[edit]

Islamic art in all media is represented at the Walters. Among the highlights are a 7th Century carved and hammered silver bowl from Iran; a 13th Century candlestick made of copper, silver, and gold from Mamluk Egypt; 16th-century mausoleum doors decorated with intricate wood carvings in a radiating star pattern; a 17th Century silk sash from the Mughal Empire in India; and a 17th Century Turkish tile with an image of the Masjid al-Haram("Great Mosque of Mecca"), the center of Islam in Mecca, (Saudi Arabia). The Walters Museum owns an array of Islamic manuscripts. These include a 15th Century Koran from northern India, executed at the height of the Timurid Empire; a 16th Century copy of the "Khamsa" by Amir Khusraw, illustrated by a number of famous artists for the Emperor Akbar; and a Turkish calligraphy album by Sheikh Hamadullah Al-Amasi, one of the greatest calligraphers of all time. Walters Art Museum, MS W.613 contains five Mughal miniatures from a very important "Khamsa of Nizami" made for Akbar; the rest are in London, Great Britain.

Medieval art[edit]

Henry Walters assembled a collection of art produced during the Middle Ages in all the major artistic media of the period. This forms the basis of the Walters' medieval collection, for which the Museum is best known internationally. Considered one of the best collections of medieval art in the United States, the Museum's holdings include examples of metalwork, sculpture, stained glass, textiles, icons, and other paintings. The collection is especially renowned for its ivories, enamels, reliquaries, early Byzantine silver, post-Byzantine art, illuminated manuscripts, and the largest and finest collection of Ethiopian Christian art outside Ethiopia.

The Walters' medieval collection features unique objects such as the Byzantine agate Rubens Vase that belonged to the painter Rubens (accession no. 42.562) and the earliest-surviving image of the "Virgin of Tenderness", an ivory carving produced in Egypt in the Sixth or Seventh Century (accession no. 71.297). Sculpted heads from the royal Abbey of St. Denis are rare surviving examples of portal sculptures that are directly connected with the origins of Gothic art in 12th Century France (accession nos. 27.21 and 27.22). An ivory casket covered with scenes of jousting knights is one of about a dozen such objects to survive in the world (accession no. 71.264).

Many of these works are on display in the Museum's galleries. Works from the medieval collection are also frequently included in special touring exhibitions, such as "Treasures of Heaven", an exhibition about relics and reliquaries that was on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art in (Cleveland, Ohio), the Walters Art Museum, and the British Museum in London in 2010–11.

Works in the medieval collection are the subject of active research by the curatorial and conservation departments of the museum, and visiting researchers frequently make use of the museum's holdings. In-depth technical research carried on these objects is made available to the public through publications and exhibitions, as in the case of the Amandus Shrine (accession no. 53.9), which was featured in a small special exhibition titled The Special Dead in 2008–09.

There are also Late Medieval devotional Italian paintings by these painters at the Walters: Tommaso da Modena, Pietro Lorenzetti, Andrea di Bartolo ("Resurrection"), Alberto Sotio, Bartolomeo di Tommaso ("Death of Saint Francis"), Naddo Ceccarelli, Master of Saint Verdiana, Niccolo di Segna ("Saint Lucy"), Orcagna, Olivuccio di Ciccarello, Master of Panzano Triptych and Giovanni del Biondo.

Renaissance, Baroque and 18th Century art[edit]

The collection of European Renaissance and Baroque art features holdings of paintings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, metal work, arms and armor. The highlights include Hugo van der Goes' "Donor with Saint John the Baptist", Heemskerck’s "Panorama with the Abduction of Helen Amidst the Wonders of the Ancient World", the "Madonna of the Candelabra", from the studio of Raphael, Veronese’s "Portrait Of Countess Livia da Porto Thiene and her Daughter Porzia", El Greco's "Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata", Bernini's "bozzetto" of "Risen Christ", Tiepolo’s "Scipio Africanus Freeing Massiva", and "The Ideal City" attributed to Fra Carnevale.

19th Century art[edit]

William and Henry Walters collected works by late 19th Century French academic masters and Impressionists. Highlights of the collection include "Odalisque with Slave" by Ingres (a second version); Claude Monet’s "Springtime"; Alfred Sisley's panoramic view of the Seine Valley; and Édouard Manet’s realist masterpiece, "The Café Concert".

Henry Walters was particularly interested in the courtly arts of 18th Century France. The museum’s collection of Sèvres porcelain includes a number of pieces that were made for members of the Royal Bourbon Court at Versailles Palace outside of Paris. Portrait miniatures and the examples of goldsmiths' works, especially snuffboxes and watches, are displayed in the Treasury, along with some exceptional 19th- and early 20th-century works. Among them are examples of Art Nouveau-styled jewelry by René Lalique, jeweled objects by the House of Fabergé, including two Russian Imperial Easter eggs, and precious jewels by Tiffany and Co. of New York City.

The Walters’ collection presents an overview of 19th Century European art, particularly art from France. From the first half of the century come major paintings by Ingres, Géricault, and Delacroix. William Walters stayed in Paris with his family during the Civil War, because of his notorious Southern-leanings, and he soon developed a keen interest in contemporary European painting. He either commissioned directly from the artists or purchased at auctions such major works by the Barbizon masters, including Jean-François Millet and Henri Rousseau; the academic masters Jean-Léon Gérôme and Lawrence Alma-Tadema; and even the modernists Monet, Manet, and Sisley.

Drawings in the Walters Art Museum[edit]


Walters Museum buildings[edit]

Charles Street - Old Main Building[edit]

Henry Walters’ original gallery was designed by architect William Adams Delano and erected between 1904 and 1909, facing South Washington Place (at the northwest corner with West Centre Street) and attached by an overhead bridge/passageway across the back alley from his adjacent townhouse/mansion to the north on West Mount Vernon Place (facing the Washington Monument to the northeast). Its exterior was inspired by the Renaissance-revival style Hôtel Pourtalès in Paris and its interior was modeled after the 17th Century "Collegio dei Gesuiti" (now the Palazzo dell’Università) built by the Balbi family for the Jesuits in Genoa. The arts of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, French decorative arts of the 18th and 19th Centuries, and manuscripts and rare books are now exhibited in this palazzo-style structure.[3]

Centre Street Annex Building[edit]

Designed by the Boston firm of Shepley, Bullfinch, Richardson, and Abbott, in the “Brutalist” poured-concrete style prevailing in the 1960s, (one of the few of this extremely modernistic style in the City - such as the recently razed Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in downtown from 1967), this annex building (which has several horizontal lines paralleled with features in the 1909 structure) to the west along West Centre Street and rear of the original main gallery, extending to Park Avenue, opened in 1974. It was substantially altered in 1998-2001 by another firm of Kallmann McKinnell and Wood, Architects, to provide a four-story glass atrium, with a suspended staircase at the juncture between the older and newer buildings with a new entrance lobby along Centre Street. The new lobby, which also provides easier ground-level handicapped access along with enhanced security provisions for both collections and visitors is also providing a café, an enlarged museum and gift store and a reference library.[4] The ancient, Byzantine, medieval, Ethiopian, and 19th Century European collections are housed in this building, with its large display walls and irregular corridors and galleries. Also here is the Museum’s famed art conservation laboratory, which is one of the oldest in the country.[5]

Hackerman House[edit]

This Greek Revival styled townhouse/mansion, one of the most elaborate in the City, was designed by famed local architect John Rudolph Niernsee and erected between 1848 and 1850 for Dr. John Hanson Thomas, was long regarded as the most “elegant” house in Mount Vernon Place. It sits on the southwest corner of the circle surrounding the Washington Monument and was later owned by the families Jencks and Gladding (later known as the "Thomas-Jencks-Gladding Mansion"). Considered in its premiere landmark municipal location to be used for Baltimore City's "Official Mayor's Residence" (similar to other major American cities "mayor's mansions" such as "Gracie Mansion" in a river-front park on New York City's east side of Manhattan, facing the East River when it was briefly acquired by the City in the late 1950s before being finally sold to the Gladdings family of a well-known public-spirited local Chevrolet auto dealership. Among Thomas’ distinguished guests of the mid-19th Century were the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII (1901-1910); and General Lajos Kossuth, (1802-1894)the Hungarian freedom fighter, President of an early brief Hungarian republic, veteran of the European Revolutions of 1847-1848 and the "Father of modern Hungary". Since the mid-1980s when, the Mansion was reacquired by the City under Mayor William Donald Schaefer, ([1921-2011], served city from 1971-1987) from the Gladding family with a donation by the Mayor's loyal friend along with a developer, industrialist and philanthropist Willard Hackerman, and transferred to the purposes of "The Walters". Since additional renovations with the addition of a connecting gallery with domed skylight and corridor through the top of the old rear carriage house/garage to the south, and across the alley to the old Main Building's north side. Reopened in 1991, the newly renamed "Hackerman House" has been devoted to the Walters’ recently expanded holdings of Asian art.[6]

Select works from the museum collection[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Free Admission at Baltimore Museum of Art and Walters Art museum begins October 1". Groundbreaking cooperation and financial support from Baltimore City and Baltimore County provides greater public access to world-class art. Retrieved September 23, 2006. 
  2. ^ a b McCauley, Mary Carole (May 8, 2012). "Walters donates artwork images to Wikipedia". The Baltimore Sun. 
  3. ^ Guide to the Collections, p. 14-15
  4. ^ kmwarch.com
  5. ^ "From Gallery to Museum". Walters Art Museum website. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  6. ^ Guide to the Collections, p. 18
  7. ^ "Finger Ring with a Representation of Ptah". The Walters Art Museum. 

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Gruelle, R. B., Collection of William Thompson Walters (Boston 1895)
  • Bushnell, S. W., Oriental Ceramic Art Collections of William Thompson Walters (New York 1899)

External links[edit]