Why the Walters Art Museum Is Best Visited in Sneakers

On the Desert, Jean-Leon Gerome, before 1867

The Walters Art Museum — usually just referred to as “The Walters” — is a public art museum in Baltimore founded and opened in 1934. Its collections were gathered in the mid-1800s and include masterworks of ancient Egypt, Greek sculpture and Roman sarcophagi, medieval ivories, illuminated manuscripts, Renaissance bronzes, Old Master European and 19th-century paintings, Chinese cermanics and bronzes, Art Deco jewelry, and artworks from ancient Near East, Mesopotamia, and ancient Middle East.

The mummy of a woman approximately 60 years old; 9th – 8th century BCE

As you stroll through its galleries, you stroll through the ages.

We can thank William and Henry Walters and a fortune amassed from whiskey-making for this wonderful resource. In fact, the Walters’ story is told as a journey from “Rye to Raphael.”

Gatchina Palace Egg, Peter Carl Faberge and Mikhail Evlampievich Perkhin, 1901

William and Henry Walters — father and son — were major American art and sculpture collectors. William (1819 – 1894) began seriously collecting when he fled Maryland at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861: he was a Confederate sympathizer and after Maryland remained in the Union, Paris seemed the better option. His son Henry (1848 – 1931) refined the collection.

After years of allowing the Baltimore public to occasionally view his father’s and his growing collections at his West Mount Vernon Place townhouse (really, a mansion), Henry built an elaborate stone palazzo-styled building to house the collection between 1905 – 1909.

Church of Eragny, Camille Pisarro, 1884
 Detail from The Church of Eragny
You can see the brush strokes; The Church of Eragny

Upon his death in 1931, Henry bequeathed the entire collection of then more than 22,000 objects and works of art, the original Charles Street Gallery building, and his adjacent mansion “for the benefit of the public.”

Windmills Near Zaandam, Claude Monet, 1871
Details from Monet’s Windmills Near Zaandam

It’s an amazing place, and an art museum where you easily could lose yourself for several hours.

A close-up of one of the frames of the paintings in the Walters.

But if you can’t absorb it all at once, go twice or three times, because going is free. Yup. And you can thank the City of Baltimore and Baltimore County, as well as several foundations, for making it that way. Since October 2006, both the Baltmore Art Museum and the Walters Art Museum have offered free general admission year-round as a result of grants given by Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and other sources.

Know before you go: I always laugh when I see ladies dressed up for an art museum; their feet and ankles must be aching by the 2nd gallery. Go.in.sneakers. Wear old-lady walking shoes. Whatever, but just be comfortable. Then you can focus on the art, on the experience.

Tomb Relief of a Nobleman with a Bishop Giving a Blessing, 1370 – 90

Parking: There is a parking lot across the street from the museum at Centre and Cathedral Streets, but that can be expensive. There is also street parking, but that is hit or miss.

Getting there: 600 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201

Hours: Wednesdays and Fridays – Sundays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Website: https://thewalters.org/

Raby Castle, Seat of the Earl of Darlington, Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1817

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Coast Near Villers, Constant Troyon, 1859