Armstrong, Sir Walter (1850–1918), art historian and gallery director, was born 7 February 1850 in Roxburghshire, Scotland, eldest son of Walter Armstrong of Hawick, and educated at Harrow and Oxford (BA 1873). He taught at art schools in London, Paris, and Dresden, was art critic for leading English journals, and advised collectors. In 1892 he moved to Dublin to succeed H. E. Doyle (qv) as director of the National Gallery of Ireland. Doyle had already pressed for more space; under Armstrong (in whose time the gallery gained the large Milltown collection, four important collections of watercolours, and other works, including Mantegna's ‘Judith with the head of Holofernes’), a fifteen-room extension by Thomas Manly Deane (qv) was opened (1903). Armstrong gave the gallery's collection of master drawings its later form, and was the first director to produce a well designed, practical, and scholarly catalogue. He was sympathetic to such moderns as Augustus John and William Orpen (qv). Knighted in 1899 by Earl Cadogan (qv), he retired in 1914; his many writings include Art in Great Britain and Ireland (1909) and the DNB article on Walter Osborne (qv). After months of failing health he died 8 August 1918 at his home, 63 Carlisle Mansions, Westminster. He married (1873) Emily Rose Ferard of Ascot Place, Berkshire, England; they had two sons and three daughters.
Times, 9 Aug. 1918; Alumni Oxon.; WWW; James White, National Gallery of Ireland (1968), 31; National Gallery of Ireland: illustrated summary catalogue . . . (1983), introduction by Homan Potterton, pp xv–xvi; Viola Burrow, ‘The National Gallery of Ireland’, Dublin Hist. Rec., xxxvi, no. 4 (Sept. 1983), 134