A Family Legacy at Evergreen

June 21, 2023 by Ruth Wendlandt | Photos by Larry Canner

Wally Lumpkin creates a family tradition of gifting Tiffany artwork to Evergreen Museum & Library

Wallace “Wally” Lumpkin’s passion for art collecting began as a young boy in Los Angeles. At the age of 8, his grandmother gave him a paperclip — decades later Lumpkin gifted that paperclip along with dozens of other items by Louis Comfort Tiffany, an American artist and designer, to the Johns Hopkins Evergreen Museum & Library. Since 2011, Lumpkin has donated nearly 80 pieces of art work from various artists including Tiffany, Miguel Covarrubias, and David Driskell.

“My grandmother worked for a wealthy family in LA. They gave her the paperclip,” explains Lumpkin. “It didn’t make any sense to me until I started collecting Tiffany in the 1960s when I moved to New York for college. I realized I had a piece already.”

A sunny day, Wally and his two grandsons sit on the Evergreen steps. Kyle is sitting to the left of Wally with Adam on the right. All three are smiling.
Wally taught his grandsons Kyle (left) and Adam, sitting beside their grandfather at Evergreen, about Tiffany from a young age. They call it surreal to see their grandfather’s gifts on display.

As Lumpkin’s collection grew, he started teaching his two grandsons, Adam and Kyle, about the significance of Tiffany and his artwork. Tiffany is well known for his work in stained glass, but according to Lori Beth Finkelstein, PhD, the Philip Franklin Wagley Director and Curator of Evergreen Museum & Library, Lumpkin’s pieces demonstrate the breadth of Tiffany’s talents, evoking interest from guests who want to learn more about the artist.

“Thanks to Mr. Lumpkin’s generous gifts, the museum has been able to bring new and exciting objects into the house that engage visitors with the history and craftsmanship of Tiffany while remaining true to the original collecting habits of the Garretts,” says Finkelstein, referring to the family that owned Evergreen from 1878–1952. “Without the support of museum donors like Mr. Lumpkin, Evergreen would not be able to add new dimensions to its period rooms. We very much appreciate his informed, thoughtful, and enthusiastic approach to collecting, and are grateful for his generosity.”

Wally Lumpkin smiles proudly beside the Moroccan Market Scene painting. The painting is hung in a gold-colored frame in the hallway at Evergreen.
Wally notes his favorite piece is Tiffany’s “Moroccan Market Scene,” c. 1875. The painting is on display in the first floor hallway at Evergreen.

In May 2023, Lumpkin and his two grandsons visited Evergreen and unveiled two more gifts by Tiffany Studios to Johns Hopkins, including a bronze candelabrum and a cigarette box from the early 20th century. Lumpkin states his grandsons are the reasons behind his gifts in kind.

“Family and continuation are very important to me,” says Lumpkin. “When the boys were little, I started bringing the artwork to my visits. They became more curious on how to handle it. I needed a place to keep the artwork safe so I started donating to Johns Hopkins. I wanted to be a part of the Evergreen Museum.”

Lumpkin’s grandsons, who are now in their early 20s, walked through Evergreen in May and called it surreal to look at all their grandfather’s pieces from the paintings to decorative art.

“It’s neat to see all the items my grandfather has personally donated,” says Adam. “He has shown and taught me about the artwork. I now get to see it in a museum, and it’s really cool. It’s come to fruition.”

“People from all around the world can come and see all these traditional pieces,” adds Kyle, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. “To continue my grandpa’s legacy of donating art pieces and learning more about them is something I’m super interested about. The more I learn from him, the more I can continue our family’s legacy.”

When Lumpkin began his search for Tiffany pieces, he explored flea markets and thrift stores. He then embarked on larger purchases, even finding items as he traveled around the world. His favorite piece is Tiffany’s 1875 “Moroccan Market Scene” painting, which is on display in the first floor hallway at Evergreen.

A complete Tiffany desk set is on display, with a stained-glass lamp to the right. More than a dozen accessories are on the desk, from a pen to a bookend.
Wally gifted a complete Tiffany desk set. The accessories include a bookend, blotter, and box stamp. Wally states, “Tiffany is the original Martha Stewart — he made accessories so everyone could decorate their homes.”

“Everybody knows Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of the jewelry store, but very few people know about his son,” says Lumpkin. “What I like is he rebelled against his father. He didn’t want to become a jeweler he wanted to become an artist. In my eyes, Tiffany is the original Martha Stewart — he made accessories so everyone could decorate their homes.”

Southern California may be home for Lumpkin, but he expresses how much he values his trips to Baltimore and the love he has for his family. Lumpkin plans to donate more Tiffany pieces with his grandsons in the future.

“I’ve been visiting Evergreen for years,” he says. “We all come here to celebrate. It’s a great place to be.”

And when Lumpkin receives inquiries from buyers, his response is a simple “no.” As he says, “When you sell something, you make money, but no one knows you ever owned them. I want it to be a part of our family tradition that we owned these Tiffany items.”

Objects donated by Lumpkin will be on view as part of the exhibition Art Glass at Evergreen, which opens Friday, June 23, and remains on view through Sept. 8, 2024. Exhibition admission is free and no prior reservations are required. Plan your visit at museums.jhu.edu.

Make Your Gift

Interested in supporting Johns Hopkins University Museums?

Topics: Sheridan Libraries and University Museums, Strengthening Partnerships, Support Scholars