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Waldstein, Charles

    Full Name: Waldstein, Charles

    Other Names:

    • Charles Walston

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1856

    Date Died: 1927

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA

    Place Died: Naples, Campania, Italy

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Classical


    Early classical art historian at Cambridge University, part of the classical art studies curriculum created by Sidney Colvin. Waldstein was the son of Henry Waldstein and Sophie Srisheim (Waldstein), German Jewish immigrants. His father was a merchant in the city. The younger Waldstein attended Columbia College of Columbia University, New York, and then the university in Heidelberg for graduate work. He moved to England in 1876, receiving his Ph.D. at King’s College, Cambridge. His mentor was the scholar Henry Bradshaw (1831-1886). Waldstein entered teaching at Cambridge University as a lecturer in classics in 1880. In 1883 he was appointed to the first readership in classical archaeology, an initiative launched by Sidney Colvin, succeeding Colvin as director of the Fitzwilliam Museum as well. Waldstein’s interest within the classics were principally art. As no where in England were degrees given in art history, Waldstein pioneered the teaching the subject of classical sculpture, painting, and topography. In 1885 he published his first book a monograph on the (then believed to be) works of the fifth-century Greek sculptor Phidias, Essays on the Art of Pheidias. His belief in the object resulted in passionate advocating of plaster casts collections of ancient sculpture at Cambridge. He left the Fitzwilliam directorship in 1889 to become director of the American School at Athens, a position he held until 1893. He joined the excavations at Plataea 1889-1890, and then the tomb of Aristotle, Eretria beginning in 1891, before excavating the temple of Hera near the Argos in 1892-1895. The younger American scholar Joseph Clark Hoppin assisted him on the latter dig. His 1894 monograph on the art critic and art historian John Ruskin demonstrated his broad art interests. The first of his two Slade professorships of art at Cambridge began in 1895 (to 1901). His inaugural lecture was on the important of art [history] studies in universities. Waldstein joined Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) to assist in (re)founding the Olympic games, competing himself and winning a silver medal for shooting for the United States, of which he was still a citizen, at the 1896 Athens games. He became a British subject in 1899. In 1904 he began a second Slade professorship, lasting until 1911. Waldstein married a New Yorker, Florence Seligman in 1909. The cast collection at the Fitzwilliam which he had largely assembled was separated in 1910, against Waldstein’s approval. He was knighted in 1912. The Waldstein’s Anglicized their name to Walston in 1918 to avoid association with Germany and the World War. This change and his peerage did not prevent accusations by George Edmund Milnes Monckton-Arundell, Viscount Galway, (1844-1931) of being a German sympathizer, which he fought in a libel suit after the War. He attempted, vainly it turned out, to create an international committee to preserve and exploration Herculaneum, ultimately blocked by the Italian government. Walston died in Naples in 1927. An undergraduate travel fund to Greece is named in his honor. Waldstein’s books are not read today and seem naive. His importance lies as a promoter and one of the founders of classical archaeology studies at University of Cambridge. Mary Beard describes his demeanor at Cambridge as somewhat “pushy,” though a dynamic lecturer.

    Selected Bibliography

    Essays on the Art of Pheidias. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1885; The Work of John Ruskin: its Influence Upon Modern Thought and Life. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1893; The Study of Art in Universities: Inaugural Lecture of the Slade Professor of Fine Art in the University of Cambridge. New York: Harper, 1896; Alcamenes and the Establishment of the Classical Type in Greek Art. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University press, 1926; Notes on Greek Sculpture. I. The Constantinople Pentathlete and Early Athlete Statues. II. A Marble Draped Female Figure in Burlington House. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1927. -Nigel Spivey


    “Slander By Lord Galway, Walston v. Galway.” [biographical information] Times (London) March 29, 1919, p 4; Spivey, Nigel. “Walston (formerly Waldstein), Sir Charles.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Beard, Mary. “Mrs. Arthur Strong, Morelli, and the Troopers of Cortés.” in, Donohue, A. A. and Fullerton, Mark D., eds. Ancient Art and its Historiography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 152; [obituary:] “The Late Sir Charles Walston.” Times (London) Mar 24, 1927, 16.


    "Waldstein, Charles." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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