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America's Medicis: The Rockefellers and Their Astonishing Cultural Legacy
     

America's Medicis: The Rockefellers and Their Astonishing Cultural Legacy

by Suzanne Loebl
 

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From literary polymath Suzanne Loebl (the author of ten books, most recently the acclaimed America’s Art Museums) comes the captivating, first-of-its kind exploration into the philanthropic and cultural legacy of one of America’s wealthiest and most influential families: The Rockefellers. Fueled by John D. Rockefeller’s vast petroleum

Overview

From literary polymath Suzanne Loebl (the author of ten books, most recently the acclaimed America’s Art Museums) comes the captivating, first-of-its kind exploration into the philanthropic and cultural legacy of one of America’s wealthiest and most influential families: The Rockefellers. Fueled by John D. Rockefeller’s vast petroleum fortune, the entire family’s terrific passion for the arts transformed the artistic infrastructure of twentieth century America. Funding museums like the MoMA, the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the Oriental Art at the University of Chicago, and commissioning major architectural projects like Rockefeller Center, Riverside Church, and Lincoln Center, the Rockefellers’ achievements forever changed the cultural landscape of the Western world. Loebl’s penetrating biography is the first book to deeply explore the family’s critical role as collectors and patrons of the arts.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Loebl (America's Art Museums) chronicles the collecting and funding exploits of oil heir John D. Rockefeller Jr.; his wife, Abby; and their children in this placid, appreciative study of "America's greatest arts patrons." Their imprint on 20th-century art was indelible--Abby cofounded New York's Museum of Modern Art--but the author surveys a vast set of initiatives underwritten by the family, including the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, influential collections and museums of medieval Mexican, African, and American folk art. There were also grand houses and parks, and architectural gems like New York's Rockefeller Center and Riverside Church. Loebl generally applauds Rockefeller tastes, downplays the dynamic of plutocratic vanity, and shrugs off urbanist criticisms of the Rockefeller-led Lincoln Center. Aside from the brouhaha over Diego Rivera's Communist-inflected Rockefeller Center mural, with images of a saintly Lenin and wealthy socialites wreathed in syphilis germs, there's not much excitement. Loebl's interest is less in personalities than in the art and architecture, which she describes in rapturous detail accompanied by lavish photos that make the book feel like a gracefully written but staid gift shop catalogue. 16 pages of color photos, 48 b&w photos. (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews

Loebl (America's Art Museums: A Traveler's Guide to Great Collections Large and Small, 2002, etc.) celebrates the myriad contributions of generations of Rockefellers to the public enjoyment of art.

The author focuses on the fortune of the Rockefellers and how they chose to dispose of much of it, but she offers very little criticism or analysis. Instead, she provides a simple chronology of the family's rise and their major collections and endowments, with a final chapter on their smaller legacies. There is no gainsaying the significance of the Rockefellers to the cultural life of the country. Rockefeller Center, MoMA, the Cloisters, Colonial Williamsburg and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum of American Folk Art, Lincoln Center, the Nelson Rockefeller Empire State Mall—these are colossal gifts to the country. Loebl also looks at endowments to Dartmouth, Vassar, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and numerous others. The author's strategy in each chapter is fairly fixed: some background on the relevant Rockefellers involved in the endowment, a construction history of the building(s), a few quick comments about the prominent pieces on display and some gushy prose about how gorgeous it is. Loebl confesses at the end that she began to feel like a member of the family—perhaps too much so. Hers may be the only published account of the death of Nelson Rockefeller, for example, that neglects to mention the Megan Marshack controversy, and the author becomes so accustomed to writing about enormous gifts and acquisitions that she notes without irony that circumspect John D. Rockefeller III limited himself to "only" $1-$1.5 million per year in art purchases. Loebl also characterizes as mere "string-pulling" the maneuvering that enabled Chase to acquire Lower Manhattan land for its skyscraper.

The Rockefeller family's contributions to American culture are unquestioned, but this book veers too close to panegyric.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061237225
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/16/2010
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
1,304,002
Product dimensions:
9.50(w) x 11.68(h) x 1.45(d)

Meet the Author

Suzanne Loebl is a writer living in New York and Maine. She is the author of fourteen books, most recently America’s Art Museums.

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