Libraries Society of North America 31st Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD
Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland - March 20-26, 2003
Linda Seckelson, Head of Reader Services, Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Hannah Bennett, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Humphries, Director of Research, Daniel Garber Catalogue Raisonné Project, and
Cataloger for the Bohanan Works on Paper Collections, Maryland Historical
Edgar, Senior Lecturer, Education Department, Walters Art Museum
Fisher, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs Baltimore Museum of Art
Lance Humphries - Robert Gilmor, Jr. (1774-1848)
to a leading Baltimore merchant and financier family, Robert Gilmor, Jr. became
one of America’s first premier art patrons.
His vast and varied collection surpassed that of Thomas Jefferson and was
mentioned at length in Dunlap’s 1834 History
of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States.
Gilmor envisioned his nation’s capital rivaling those cultural
institutions in Great Britain. Consequently,
in 1846, he offered to sell his entire collection to the Smithsonian.
Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian, turned down Gilmor’s offer,
opting for science related artifacts. Following
Gilmor’s death in 1848, most of the collection was dismantled and bequeathed
collection consisted primarily of 14th century Old Masters and 17th
century Dutch and Flemish works, many of which were entered in John Smith’s A
Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French
Painters. Although the bulk of Gilmor’s collection was European, he was a
strong supporter of American artists such as Francis Guy, Thomas Cole and
Horatio Greenough. Gilmor also
collected the works of Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, and Henry Inman, John
Trumbull, and A.S. Mount. As an
accomplished art collector, Glimor kept detailed records of his paintings and
their provenance. Other collecting
habits ventured into numismatics; Gilmor was the earliest documented collector
of American coins. His illuminated
manuscript collection included a 15th century manuscript of The
Books of Hours, which is one of the oldest of its kind in the U.S.
His keen interest in geology and landscapes resulted in a large
collection of minerals and rocks. By 1826, Gilmor was collecting personal
letters and autographs from leading American figures.
Molly Edgar – The Walters Collection
Walters (1819-1894) amassed his fortune as a shipping merchant and railroad
magnate and by1841 the Baltimore patriarch was actively collecting art of his
own time and region. Of particular
interest were Asher B. Durand and Richard Canton Woodville.
During the Civil War, Walters relocated his family to Paris where the
collection would take considerable shape and scope.
It was in Paris that Walters met art collector and agent George Lucas.
With Lucas as his advisor, Walters commissioned several paintings while
actively collecting works from the Barbizon School. By 1862, Walters was also collecting Oriental porcelain – a
premiere collection that resulted in the publication of Oriental Ceramic Art, a history of the collection.
The Mount Vernon Place town home served as the gallery space for the
collection and was routinely open to the public for an admission price of fifty
cents. By 1894, this gallery
opened permanently to the public as the Walters Art Gallery.
his death in 1894, William Walters bequeathed the extensive collection to his
son, Henry Walters (1848-1931). Henry ran the family railroad business, Atlantic
Coastline Railroad, from New York while maintaining a residence in Baltimore
(though legend has it that he only spent a total of one night in Baltimore).
Walters was aggressive in his development of the collection; in 1901,
Walters purchased the 1500-piece Marcello Massarenti collection that included
medieval and Renaissance panel paintings, decorative arts, and a
thirteenth-century Cimabue crucifix. Although
Henry did not have a specific art advisor, he possessed a tasteful instinct seen
in such acquisitions as the Rubens vase, St. Dénis stained glass, medieval
illuminated manuscripts, and Islamic pieces.
It was only after his father’s death that Henry began collecting
Impressionist work and fin de siècle, art
nouveau decorative arts. To
accommodate the ever-growing collection, Walters expanded the Mount Vernon Place
gallery by purchasing adjoining town homes on Charles Street.
The new space officially opened in 1909. Walters bequeathed the Walters Art Gallery collections to the
city of Baltimore in 1931.
Jay Fisher – The Cone Collection
of the most important art collections in the U.S. if not the world is the
Baltimore Museum of Art’s Cone Collection.
Claribel Cone (1864-1929) and her younger sister Etta (1870-1949) were
born in Tennessee but by 1872, their father relocated the family to
Baltimore’s Utah Street, the Jewish center of the city.
Claribel graduated from the Philadelphia Women’s Medical College and
continued her research at Johns Hopkins where she met Gertrude Stein.
Etta managed the family household and became an accomplished pianist.
She began the collection with the purchase of painting by American
Impressionist Theodore Robinson. In
1901, the Cone sisters made the first of several trips to Europe.
Gertrude and Leo Stein accompanied them and introduced the sisters to
the guidance of Leo Stein, the Cones found their passion in modernism and as a
result became avid collectors of Picasso and Matisse. Their fervent support of Matisse soured Picasso to the point
where the Cones stopped collecting Picasso’s works from 1906 to 1926.
During WWI, Claribel moved to Munich and remained in Europe until her
death in 1929. Meanwhile, the
family business – Cone Mills, a denim-manufacturing mill in North Carolina–
boomed, particularly after the war. Now
more than ever the Cones had the financial means to develop their world-class
collection. Following Claribel’s
death, the Baltimore Museum of Art was promised her portion of the collection
with the stipulation that the museum would develop a modern art collection.
Etta oversaw the arrangement. At
the same time, Etta became close friends with Matisse and acquired over 60
drawings, sculptures and paintings by him.
Major Matisse works in the collection include “The Blue Nude” and
“The Pink Nude” as well as several sketches of the Cones. After Etta’s
death in 1949, her collection joined that of her sister’s in the Baltimore
Museum of Art. By 1952, the Cone Collection included 18 000 paintings,
drawings, sculptures, textiles, and decorative arts.