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Morgan, Sr., J. Pierpont

American, 1837 - 1913


Head of the billion-dollar U.S. Steel Corporation, international financier and banker, J.P. Morgan's main interest in the latter part of his life was art collecting. He preferred Renaissance objects and did not particularly like modern art. Morgan made a habit of buying whole collections at once, sometimes procuring them for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, of which he became President in 1904. He appointed top scholars to various positions on the Metropolitan's staff, often using them as advisors in his personal collecting, and placed several millionaire businessmen/collectors on its board of trustees. Of the staff members recruited by Morgan, two were noted Boston Egyptologists. The nineteenth-century archaeology boom had filled many a European museum with objects representing ancient and classical civilizations. Morgan saw to it that America would catch up in the early twentieth century, negociating for digging sites in Egypt. In 1906, the Metropolitan sent an expedition there to procure ancient treasures. From about 1909 on, Morgan made annual visits to the museum's diggings, and he was present at the Met's opening of the first major U.S. exhibition of ancient Egyptian artifacts in November of 1911. Morgan was a generous donor to other institutions as well, always giving anonymously under the belief that "a gentleman should not advertise his benefactions" (Saarinen, p.78). In June 1914, after his death, an exhibition of his collection was given at the Metropolitan Museum. His son, trying to follow his father's wishes as a patron, but also in need of cash to keep Morgan's businesses going, eventually sold or gave away around fifty percent of the collections; forty percent--some six to eight thousand objects--went to the Metropolitan.


E.R. "The J. Pierpont Morgan Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art [New York] Bulletin 9 (February 1914): 34-42.
Satterlee, Herbert L. J. Pierpont Morgan, an Intimate Portrait. New York, 1939.
Taylor, F.H. Pierpont Morgan as Collector and Patron 1837-1913. New York, 1957.
Saarinen, Aline B. The Proud Possessors. New York, 1958: 56-91.

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