William T. Walters (1819-94) made his fortune in the liqour trade and in East Coast railroads. He assembled a splendid collection of 19th cenutry European painting and Asian art. When William died, he bequeathed his collection to his son Henry (1848-1931) who continued investing and managing railroads and carried on the family interest in art. The collection was transformed into one of the finest of all American private collections. In 19341, the City of Baltimore received one of its greatest treasures when Henry gave his collection of 22,000 works of art to his native city "for the benefit of the public." Although significantly expanded since that time, the museum's strength and scope contunue to reflect Williams's and Henry's collecting genius and philanthropic spirit.
Today, the Walters Art Musuem 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. Among its thousands of treasures, the Walters holds the finest collection of ivories, jewelry, enamels and bronzes in America and a spectacular reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books. The Egyptian, Green 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. Almost every trend in French painting during the 19th century is represented by one or more works in the Walters' collection.