Baltimore's Collection of Collections
Art lovers share an unspoken bond. Standing before a work of art, we are transported. Art takes us beyond our sense of sight; a vivid amethyst evokes the rich scent of wine - a brilliant saffron, the warmth of sunshine. An almost magnetic force arrests us as we take in a drawing or painting or sculpture - our only choice is to stop, look and step inside. So it must have been for the early collectors who created the foundation for Baltimore's thriving art scene; each cultivated an appreciation for beauty, ideas and creativity. For modern-day art enthusiasts, Baltimore's museum collections provide an exciting link to the past. Your half-day tour of museum collections will take you from the Maryland Historical Society and The Walters Art Museum to the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA).
The artistic legacy of the Peale family is celebrated in museums around the country, but the Maryland Historical Society houses the nation's largest collection of paintings by the creative clan. The 19th-century Baltimore family was known for their artistic tendencies: sons with names like Rubens, Raphaelle and Rembrandt became well-known painters of their time. Charles himself was a portrait painter, as was his brother James. James's daughters Sarah, Anna and Margaretta were painters as well. The Peale Collection at the Maryland Historical Society also boasts an archive including 252 glass plate negatives made in the 1920s, and 133 modern photo prints printed from negatives.
During the time that the prolific Peales were creating art in Baltimore, another local family was finding its artistic footing in a different way. Born in 1819, William Thompson Walters was a Pennsylvania native who arrived in Baltimore in his early twenties. Two decades later, having become a successful merchant, Walters turned his attention to collecting art. Walters patronized local artists in Maryland, and after moving his family to Paris, France, he continued to patronize contemporary French artists such as Jéan-Leon Gérôme, Honoré Daumier and Antoine-Louis Barye. Walters' son, Henry, shared his father's passion for collecting and, as a young man, stood in for his father at international art exhibitions. Years later, after his father's death, Henry developed a vision for a museum that would fulfill an educational role within the local community. Today, The Walters is acclaimed as one of the best art museums in the United States, featuring art and artifacts which span more than 5,000 years of history and the globe.
At the turn of the 20th century, the art scene in Baltimore would find two more allies whose influence would be felt for decades to come. The Cone sisters, Claribel and Etta, were members of Baltimore nobility-educated, cultured and well-traveled. The sisters had very different tastes: Etta was the younger, more conservative sister, and Claribel, more open to the avant-garde. By the time the sisters were in their thirties, they had become friends with writer Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo, and through them, joined an exciting creative community of writers, musicians and artists. The sisters made annual trips to Europe to purchase fine art for their stately Bolton Hill apartments. In 1906, Etta met French painter Henri Matisse during a visit to Paris. Over the course of Matisse's career, the sisters collected paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and illustrated books from the artist. Thanks to the Cone sisters, Baltimore has the world's largest collection of works by Henri Matisse with unmatched holdings of more than 600 works of art.
The Cone Collection is a must-see for art lovers visiting Baltimore. In addition to the works of Matisse, the internationally renowned collection features works by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh, as well as a variety of textiles, jewelry, furniture, and African, Asian, and Near Eastern art.
Many sites require groups to make advanced reservations for tours and visits. Please contact each site before your group tour.
Plan your trip!
- The War Came By Train: American Civil War 150th Anniversary April 30, 2011 - December 31, 2015 | All Day
- The Animated Orchestra March 8, 2014 | 11:00am - 11:00am
- Civil War Trains Exhibit August 16, 2012 - December 31, 2015 | All Day
- In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland during the War of 1812 June 10, 2012 - December 31, 2014 | All Day
- Fell’s Point Haunted PubWalk March 1, 2014 - November 29, 2014 | 7:00pm - 9:00pm