Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1874-1948

  • Abby-Aldrich-Rockefeller-WWP

Woman Category: Arts and PhilanthropyWoman Tags: Art Collector and NYC Women

  • HerStory

    A socialite and philanthropist. The co-founder of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and its biggest donor.

    Abigail Aldrich Rockefeller was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Her father was a Republican senator, and she grew up traveling back and forth between Rhode Island and Washington, DC. She was educated by a Quaker governess till she was 17 years old, and then attended Miss Abbott’s School for Young Ladies in Providence.
     
    During her upbringing, she was introduced to socialite and political circles, and at 19 years old, she made her official social debut. The following year, she embarked on an extensive European tour, where she visited many museums and art galleries and began to sharpen her skills as an art collector. At 20 years old, she met John Davison Rockefeller Jr., the son of the businessman and philanthropist John Davison Rockefeller Sr. After five years of courtship, the couple married at a big society wedding. The young Rockefellers settled in NYC, first in 13 W. 54th Street in Manhattan and later in 10 W. 54th Street.
     
    Rockefeller was a philanthropist in the heart, and she devoted herself to various charities. She donated money to the girl scouts, chaired the Auxiliary 336 of the American Red Cross, was a member of the Young Women’s Christian Association National Board, and served as chairman of different committees of the organization. In 1918, Rockefeller was chosen to chair the Housing Committee of the War Work Council, in which she worked for the improvement of living conditions for working women. She later applied the concept to the employees of Standard Oil – her husband’s family firm, purchasing land and building homes for the workers as well as a Community Center that included a clinic, nursery school, gym, and even a bowling alley.
     
    In 1925, Rockefeller revived her love for art and began collecting paintings and drawings mainly of contemporary American artists as well as European modernists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Within a few years, she converted part of the room in her 7th floor Manhattan apartment into a gallery, where visitors could view the art on display. In 1929, alongside Lillie P. Bliss, Mary Quinn Sullivan, she co-founded the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC – the first museum in the US devoted entirely to the modern movement. Rockefeller held several positions in the museum management team, from treasurer to Vice-President and Vice-Chairman, as well as served in its committees. She pushed for establishing the museum’s film library and for the War Veterans’ Art Center – a rehabilitation program for WW2 veterans through art.
     
    Rockefeller’s dedication to art expanded outside of MoMA; she donated art pieces to other institutes, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Met Cloisters, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Ludwell-Paradise House at Colonial Williamsburg. She passed away after suffering a heart attack at the age of 73.
     

    “What I would like you always to do is what I try humbly to do myself, that is, never to say or to do anything which would wound the feelings or the self-respect of any human being, and to give special consideration to all who are in any way repressed.”

    “What I would like you always to do is what I try humbly to do myself, that is, never to say or to do anything which would wound the feelings or the self-respect of any human being, and to give special consideration to all who are in any way repressed.”

     


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was the fourth of ten children.
    • She had six children.
    • She donated her husband’s wedding gift to Providence’s YWCA.
    • During WW1, she hosted a volunteering operation for the American Red Cross, preparing comfort bags for the soldiers fighting in Europe.
    • Her first gift to the new MoMA was an oil painting by Bernard Karfiol.
    • According to her will, in 1998, some of the original works she had donated to MoMA were to transfer to other museums because, after half a century, they would no longer be considered “modern.”
    • She donated the MoMA more than 180 paintings as well as 1600 prints from her private collection.
    • The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Print Room at the MoMA is named in her honor.
    • The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden is named in her honor.
    • The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Colonial Williamsburg is named in her honor.
    • Henri Matisse’s Rose Window at the Union Church in Pocantico, New York, was created as an homage to her.
  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

    No Records Found

    Sorry, no records were found. Please adjust your search criteria and try again.

    Google Map Not Loaded

    Sorry, unable to load Google Maps API.


  • Booking.com
    Booking.com

  • Woman Tags: Art Collector, NYC Women

    Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Art Museum 60th Anniversary

    This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Art Museum--one of the largest collections of American folk art in the world--at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Learn more about the collection and upcoming programs here: bit.ly/2jQYPEw

  • Rockefeller in 1900. Photo credit - Wikipedia

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Rockefeller Center website.
    PBS website.


  •