Bust of William P. Wilstach
William Henry Rinehart, American, 1825 - 1874
Anna H. Wilstach, c. 1822–1892 and William P. Wilstach, c. 1816–1870 Through the gift to the city of Philadelphia in 1893 of the art collection she had assembled with her late husband, William P. Wilstach, and an endowment of $500,000, Anna H. Wilstach improved upon the public-spirited project envisioned by her husband more than twenty years earlier. A prosperous merchant of saddlery and carriage hardware from the 1840s through the Civil War years in Philadelphia, Mr. Wilstach had the means to acquire works of art in the United States and abroad. In his will, he laid out a vision for a gallery of fine art to be erected in Fairmount Park and open to the public. Although he left his estate to his wife and daughter, Wilstach directed that if the latter had no children surviving her, a quarter of his fortune was to go to the city or state to fund such a gallery. Sadly, Mrs. Wilstach was predeceased in 1873 by the couple’s twenty-year-old daughter, Anna Gertrude. (Their only other child, Sallie Jones, died in 1860 at the age of sixteen.) Bequeathed as the W. P. Wilstach Collection, Mrs. Wilstach’s gift included some 150 paintings as well as sculpture, engravings, etchings, and drawings. Many of the paintings were by well-known artists of the time, such as Mihály von Munkácsy of Hungary and Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven of Belgium. A group of bronze figures and bas-reliefs of animals in the collection were the masterful work of French sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye. As she deemed Memorial Hall to be an appropriate setting for her works of art, Mrs. Wilstach found no need for new gallery construction. Instead, she directed the Museum to use her endowment to care for the collection and to add to its holdings. Since its inception, the W. P. Wilstach Fund has supported nearly one thousand acquisitions.