As the son of businessman Edward Phelps “E.P.” Allis, Charles was taught to appreciate art and was introduced to collecting at a young age. He grew up with the works of Eugène Fromentin, Narcisse Virgilio Díaz de la Peña, Felix Ziem, Edward Moran, Jozef Isräels, and Rosa Bonheur, among many others his father collected. Although most of E.P.’s art was given to the Layton Gallery (now part of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection), Charles acquired a few works from his father, including “Summer on the Oise” by Charles-François Daubigny, “Ville d’Avray” by Camille Corot, and “In the Pasture” by Eugène Verboeckhoven.

Charles Allis began accumulating his vast collection while still a young man, interested in many cultures from around the world. Working with various art dealers, he educated himself reading books about art, and he researched each purchase diligently.

Charles and Sarah amassed a unique and unusually broad art collection. They preferred paintings from the West, while they sought out their ceramics from the East. Strongly influenced by his father, Charles was particular in the type of paintings he collected, primarily from the French Barbizon School, American Hudson River School, and the Hague School. He was also interested in the decorative arts of China, Japan, Korea, Persia, Syria and Egypt, amassing a collection of ceramics, porcelain, ivories, glass and jade. 

Although the art collection is in Charles’ name, he was not the only art collector in the home. Sarah Allis had a keen eye for collecting prints, as well as accumulating an impressive array of thirty-five bronze animals by the much sought-after sculptor Antoine-Lois Barye.

They purchased lamps and household ornaments from the famous Tiffany Studios of New York and even considered engaging the firm to produce a large landing window for their new residence.

As a result of Charles and Sarah’s keen collecting instincts, the couple built a world-class art collection. Together, these objects speak of an insatiable curiosity about the world and its artistic output. The couple also built a mansion to display their collection, with the intention of bequeathing their home and its contents to the public in order to delight, inspire and educate. 

Highlights of the Allis collection are available to view on The Collection page.