Metropolitan Museum – Benefactors

I may be allowed to, consider it a gracious duty and privilege to close this book with a reference to the munificent donors who have made the Metropolitan Museum of Art what it is today. Passing reference has been made to a few — this should not exclude mention of many others whose liberality has contributed to the Museum’s growth.

Prominent among those who gave the first impetus to the Museum’s work were its first President, John Taylor Johnston, with Wm. T. Blodgett, Frederick W. Rhinelander, Rutherford Stuyvesant, Richard M. Hunt, H. G. Marquand, Robert Hoe Jr., Richard Butler, G. P. Putnam and Lucius Tuckerman. One of the first loans was made by Mr. Martin Brimmer, the first President of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Mr. Samuel P. Avery soon took an active and inestimable interest in the Museum’s welfare, and with the advent of Gen. Luigi P. di Cesnola an energetic regime set in which in fairness must be regarded as having given the young plant new vigour and ambition. Although criticized for an autocratic tendency, only partly hidden by diplomatic suavity the first Director of the Museum infused vitality and force into the efforts to have the Museum answer its purposes — it passed from its experimental stage, and its future became fully assured.

During the first ten years of its existence the Metropolitan received many donations. The donors of the most important gifts were William B. Astor, John Bard, John Taylor Johnston, H. G. Marquand, Morris K. Jessup, Samuel G. Ward, Gouverneur Kemble, Thomas Kensett, Mrs. F. Schuchardt, W. H. Webb, Miss Elizabeth Warne (England), the Estate of Mrs. Sarah Ann Ludlum. The success of the first decade inspired hopes which the second decade fully justified.

In 1881 Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt presented to the Museum almost 700 original drawings and sketches by old masters ; Mr. Richard M. Hunt gave a large and fine collection of casts of works of art; and Mr. James Jackson Jarves donated his valuable collection of glass, comprising a series of beautiful illustrations of the revived art at Murano (Venice), and the achievements in Europe down to the present time. This was augmented by the purchase for $15,000, provided by Mr. H. G. Marquand, of a collection of Grecian, Roman and Mediaeval glass.

By the gift of $6,000 from the President, John Taylor Johnston, the Museums acquired the famous King collection of Engraved Gems. A gift of Mr. Joseph W. Drexel of a number of Egyptian en-graved stones and pottery seals complemented this display of the art of the lapidary, Mr. Drexel laid also the foundation for the Museum’s coin collection by presenting a fine assortment of gold, silver and bronze coins, from Egypt. Mr. H. G. Marquand supplied frequently funds for the increase of the Museum’s collections, and for the much-needed endowment of the Library.

In 1883 a bequest ($75,000) of Mr. Levi Hale Willard laid the foundation for the magnificent collection of models, casts, photographs, engravings, and other objects illustrative of the art and science of architecture. In the same year Mr. Wm.

H. Huntington donated his collection of works of art which have special reference to Washington, Franklin and Lafayette.

Besides bequests of Mr. S. Whitney Phoenix, Mr. Wm. H. Huntington, Mr. William E. Dodge and Mr. Levi Hale Willard, the Museum Trustees received, in 1886, a bequest of $100,000 by , will of Mr. Wm. H. Vanderbilt. That same year his son Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Judge Henry Hilton, Mr. Horace Russell, Mr. Junius S. Morgan (London), Mr. Wm. Schaus, and Mr. George I. Seney increased the collection of paintings with valuable canvases. The next year the Museum received the magnificent collection of paintings of Miss Catherine Lorillard Wolfe, together with an endowment fund of $200,000.

In 1889 Mr. H. G. Marquand, who had become the President of the Board of Trustees, donated a collection of paintings by Old Masters and artists of the English school of the highest value. A very important acquisition during that year was the collection of nearly 300 musical instruments, formed and presented by Mrs. John Crosby Brown, to which she made later many valuable additions.

The principal donations made during the second decade, beside those already enumerated, came from the following donors : Mr. W. T. Evans, Mr. Wm. H. Osborn, Mr. F. E. Church, Mr. S. L. M. Barlow, Mr. Alphonse Duprat, Mr. Robert Hoe Jr., Mrs. Charles A. Peabody, Mrs. J. D. Smillie, Mr. George W. Thorne, Mr. James F. Sutton, Mr. Adolph Kohn, Mrs. Falconer, Mr. Jacob H. Schiff, the Hon. Levi P. Morton, Mr. John Jacob Astor (the Astor Collection of Laces), Mrs. Lucy W. Drexel, Mrs. Josephine Banker, the Misses Lazarus, Mrs. Alfred Corning Clark, Mr. Erwin Davis, Mr. James Douglas, Mr. George F. Baker, Mr. H. O. Havemeyer.

With the close of the year 1891 the Metropolitan Museum of Art may be said to have attained its majority. The formative period had been one of great difficulties, entailing much anxiety and hard work on the part of its founders, but thanks to their unselfish and sacrificing labours the institution had gained strength year by year, and had enlarged its scope and magnitude. New friends continued to come forward, and the third decade opened with the magnificent bequest of Mr. Edward C. Moore. It comprised a very large collection of objects of metal work, ivory, textile fabrics, glass, pottery, terra cotta, jewels, basket-work, etc., mostly ancient, mediaeval and Oriental. The bequest of Mrs. Elizabeth V. Coles contained many valuable tapestries and other textiles. A fine collection of Chinese and Japanese pottery was presented by Mr. Samuel Colman, and President Marquand in-creased his many benefactions with a rare collection of European porcelain.

In 1896 the Ellis collection of arms and armour was presented by Mr. A. van Horne Ellis, and Mr. George A. Hearn commenced to show his interest in the Museum by donating several valuable paintings.

The principal benefactors of the third decade were : Mr. James A. Garland, Mr. William F. Havemeyer, Mr. Edward D. Adams, Mr. George H. Story, the Hon. Cyrus W. Field, Mr. George A. Lucas, Mr. Charles S. Smith, the Estate of the Hon. Hamilton Fish, Miss Helen Gould, Mr. T. J. Blakeslee, Mr. Louis Ehrich, Mr. W. T. Evans, Mr. Bradley Martin, Mr. Collis P. Huntington, Mr. John S. Kennedy, Mrs. Samuel P. Avery, Mr. John D. Crimmins, Mr. J. Ackerman Coles, Mr. Charles F. McKim, Lyman G. Bloomingdale.

The new century has had already several glad surprises for the Museum. The Jacob S. Rogers bequest of over four and a half million dollars has now provided a large annual income from which additions are made to the collections. At the death of one of the Trustees, Mr. Heber R. Bishop, the Museum received his very valuable collection of Jade, and $55,000 for its installation in the Museum. Mr. George A. Hearn has provided a fund of $150,000 for the upbuilding of the collection of paintings by American artists, and Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, after assuming the Presidency of the Board of Trustees, not only loaned his marvellous collection of Chinese porcelain and the Hoentschel Collection, but has acted the Maecenas of the Museum in various ways.

Mr. D. 0. Mills donated in 1905 to the Museum a collection of over 4000 antique objects, known as the ” Farman Collection.” In 1908 Mrs. Magdalena Nuttall presented her invaluable collection of laces.

Many of the benefactors of the first three decades added to their gifts, and to their number a long list must still be added : Miss Margaret Johnston, Mr. William H. Redding, Miss Georgina Schuyler, the Estate of Joseph H. Durkee, the Estate of Henry Villard, Mr. Charles B. Curtis, Mr. Alfred Duane Pell, Mr. William C. Osborne, Mr. J. Henry Smith, Mrs. Frederick F. Thompson, the Estate of Mrs. Augustus Cleveland, Mr. Victor D. Brenner, Mr. John J. Cadwalader, Mrs. John Jay Chapman, Mr. Bashford Dean, Mrs. Emma Matthiessen, Mr. W. J. Baer, Sir William van Horne, Mr. Harris C. Fahnestock, Mr. James Still-man, Mr. F. S. Wait, Mr. Hamilton W. Cary, Mr. Robert W. de Forest, Mr. S. S. Howland, Mrs. Stephen D. Tucker, Miss Margaret A. Jones, Mrs. Amelia B. Lazarus, Mr. Thomas P. Salter, Mr. D. C. French, Mrs. Ridgley Hunt, Mr. James Loeb, Mr. Isaac N. Seligman, Mr. Henry C. Frick, Mr. Garrett Chatfield Pier.

Many other liberal-minded friends of the Arts have contributed to the growth of the number of objects on exhibition. Through this munificence, which may serve as an incentive to still many others, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is growing into an institution that stands alone in the world — in ambitious aim combining the mission of the National Gallery of London with its South Kensington Museum; and reaching for that aim, not by perfunctory, official Government aid, but entirely by the free-will offerings of its friends.