William Thompson Walters
|William Thompson Walters|
William T. Walters in 1883 by french artist Léon Bonnat.
May 23, 1820
|Died||November 22, 1894
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore|
|Residence||Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.|
|Known for||Art Collector|
|Spouse(s)||Ellen Harper Walters (1822–1862)|
|Children||Henry Walters (1848–1931) Jennie Walters Delano (1853–1922)|
William Thompson Walters (May 23, 1820 – November 22, 1894) was an American businessman and art collector, whose collection formed the basis of the Walters Art Museum.
He was born in Liverpool, Pennsylvania in 1820. He was educated as a civil engineer, but became interested in the coal and iron industry. While directing a smelting establishment in Pennsylvania, Walters produced the first iron manufactured from mineral coal in the United States.
He spent much of the American Civil War in Europe, where he studied and purchased art. After the end of the war, he returned to the United States, where he invested in banking and railroads, founding the Atlantic Coast Line. He was appointed as the United States commissioner at the Paris expositions of 1867 and 1878, and also to that at Vienna in 1873. In the late 1880s he took in business in the horse trade, importing Percheron hoses with his partner Samuel Hopkins.
Marriage and family
In 1846, Walters married Ellen Harper (1822-62), daughter of a prosperous Philadelphia merchant and his wife. They had a son Henry (b. 1848) and daughter Jennie Walters. Ellen died young of pneumonia, contracted when they were traveling in England.
With his success in business secured, Walters turned to art collection, purchasing contemporary American and European works. During the American Civil War, he took his wife to Europe and lived in Paris. (Their children were in boarding school in the US part of the time.) They traveled widely in Europe, where Walters cultivated his interest in art, and purchased numerous additions for his collection.
In addition to contemporary European work, Walters began to collect Asian art and ceramics. His private collection became one of the largest and most valuable in the United States.
From 1874 onwards, Walters opened his house in Mount Vernon Place to the public most springs, with a 50 cent entrance fee; all proceeds went to charity. This annual exhibit of his gallery netted $30,000 for the poor of Baltimore.
At his death in 1894, Walters had bequeathed his collection to his son Henry Walters, who had also been collecting art. He added to it greatly, and founded the Walters Gallery (now the Walters Art Museum) in Baltimore at Mount Vernon Square. He donated this to the city of Baltimore at his death in 1931 for the benefit of the public.
Bust by Rinehart of Walters' wife Ellen (Harper) Walters
Portrait by Rajon of Henry Walters, their son
Among his writings are:
- Barye (1885)
- Notes Upon Certain Masters of the 19th Century (1886)
- William R. Johnston, William and Henry Walters: The Reticent Collectors (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to William Thompson Walters.|
- The History of the Walters Art Museum, includes biography of Walters
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