John D. Rockefeller, Jr.


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference


Art collector and patron. Also a businessman. Son of the enormously wealthy founder of Standard Oil, he continued his father's business interests and philanthropy, while in addition becoming an art enthusiast. Born in Cleveland, John Davison Rockefeller graduated from Brown University in 1897. By 1910 he had almost completely retired from business to pursue philanthropic interests. His power and money exerted lasting effects on American culture. Among many other notable projects, in 1929 he commissioned the construction of New York's Rockefeller Center, a unique ensemble of modern skyscrapers enriched with numerous contemporary paintings and sculptures. When that undertaking began, he was already involved in a philanthropic passion of many years: the Cloisters, an upper Manhattan venue opened to the public in 1938 as a showcase for the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He died in Tucson, Arizona. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874–1948) became his wife in 1901. Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Abby Greene Aldrich was active in charitable work before their marriage. In the 1920s she became a major collector of modern and contemporary European and American art. At the end of the decade, along with Lillie P. Bliss and Mary Quinn (Mrs. Cornelius J.) Sullivan, she founded the Museum of Modern Art. She and her husband made significant gifts to that institution—although he never appreciated the work it sponsored. They also provided funding for the restoration of colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, where her collection of American folk art is housed in a separate museum. She died in New York.

Their eldest son, philanthropist and collector John D. Rockefeller III (1906–78), was born in New York and graduated from Princeton University in 1929. Drawn principally to Asian art, he amassed a major collection that he bequeathed to the Asia Society, which he had founded in 1956. An automobile accident north of New York, near his Pocantico Hills estate, took his life. His wife, Blanchette Rockefeller (1909–92) collected mainly contemporary work and continued her mother-in-law's enthusiastic backing for MoMA. Born in New York, Blanchette Ferry Hooker graduated from Vassar College in 1931. She died at her home in suburban Briarcliff Manor, New York. A second son, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (1908–79), was born in Bar Harbor, Maine, and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1930. A longtime leader in the Republican party, he served as governor of New York State for four terms and as vice president in Gerald Ford's administration. Besides forming major collections of modern and tribal art, in 1954 he founded New York's Museum of Primitive Art. (Later he donated these holdings to the Metropolitan Museum). He also continued his mother's support of MoMA. He died in his New York office. Another brother, collector and international banker David Rockefeller (1915– ), chiefly prefers late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century art. Born in New York, he graduated from Harvard University in 1936 and earned a PhD from the University of Chicago four years later. He, too, numbers among longtime MoMA supporters.

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or login to access all content.