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America's Medicis: The Rockefellers and Their Astonishing Cultural Legacy Hardcover – November 16, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.) (c)
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From Booklist

How would you spend your money if you were fabulously rich? If you were a Rockefeller, you might choose to spend a big chunk of it on art. What John D. Rockefeller, Jr., once described as his quiet hobby started with collecting Chinese porcelains and went on to endowing major building projects. His discerning wife Abby’s passion for art matched or exceeded his own, but while his tastes remained tradional, she embraced contemporary art, which Junior despised. His interest in the old resulted in the construction of the Cloisters, while her interest in the new resulted in the Museum of Modern Art. Loebl’s knowledgeable book is less a biography than a record of a spending spree that continued into the next generation and left us with, in addition to the Cloisters and MoMA, the Oriental Institute in Chicago, the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem, Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center, Colonial Williamsburg, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum of American Folk Art, and more. All of us are richer for their enthusiasm and largesse. --Mary Ellen Quinn
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061237221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061237225
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I always knew the Rockefellers were involved with the Museum of Modern Art, The Cloisters, and Williamsburg, but did not realize the extent and variety of their gifts and how much, at the time they impacted the acceptance of "modern" art in America. I enjoyed reading about the storm that surrounded Diego Rivera's mural at Rockefeller Center. Having money allows you to fulfill your whims and embark on shopping sprees, but it brings problems of its own like: defending how your beloved father made it, share it equitably between yourself and others, bring children up responsibly, or arguing within the family about what is good art. Art, as Abby Rockefeller liked to say, is good for the soul and enriches the spiritual life, and America's Medicis is an example of the benfits and pleasures a tycoon's money can provide at a time that the nation and the world is again struggling with the unequal distribution of wealth.
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Format: Hardcover
I've incidently come across with this most interesting and fascinating book written by Suzanne Loebl. I am German and live at Hanover/Lower Saxony where I was lucky enough to buy this english book.

After I read it I had the impression of knowing the Rockefeller family thoroughly. Some marginal characters depicted in this book may have been described somewhat lengthy and too copiously. The overall impression of this book, though is extremely positive. As a German I would have never imagined the impact and importance just one extremely powerful and wealthy family like the Rockefellers had in the US and their cultural influence on the american art market.

What I appreciate is the knowledge and expertise Mrs. Loebl had in summarizing the various facts to accomplish this most readable book. The completion of this book was in fact an arduous job.

I wish many Germans would read this book - maybe someday in german language.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a fascinating history of the Rockefeller family's contribution to America's cultural contribution. Suzanne Loebl goes into great detail and examines how the Rockefeller family drove so many substantial programs by building great collections and great collections. The author gives tremendous detail in explaining how the Rockefeller's took tremendous personal interest in their collections and were keen to share their interest with the world.

What is most interesting is that the Rockefeller family was well ahead of their time and really shaped the way modern art was appreciated and how they contributed not just money, from a near bottomless well, but also time. The vision of the family was astonishing. The one great weakness of the book which keeps me from giving it a perfect score is that there is a certain randomness to story which makes it difficult to follow. Other than that it is a very interesting and unique read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Loebl's highly readable book describes the Rockefeller's art collecting from its beginning and throughout the 20th century. Along with the carefully researched and referenced study of their collection, the author's knowledge of art history and criticism make America's Medicis a book of note. The reader will also enjoy many glimpses into generations of Rockefeller family life.
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Format: Hardcover
Until I read Suzanne Loebl's America's Medicis, I had no idea of the large impact that the Rockefellers had on my life.

In my twenties, I attended the University of Chicago, and I was vaguely aware that it had been built by John the First. Although it is one of America's great universities, I felt depressed there, primarily because of the 14-inch thick dungeon-like walls of its Gothic architecture.

I was really impressed, though, by Rockefeller Chapel, on the campus, where I received my graduate degree.

Until I read, America's Medici, I was not aware that the elegant International House, near the campus, on the Midway, was built by John the Second. I lived there for two years,and I think I was having too much fun there for its ownership to sink in.

When I moved to New York City, I got a job in the International Building, which anchors the northeast corner of Rockefeller Center. After work, I used to go through its underground mall, admiring its elegant shops, until I got to the Sixth Ave. subway, under RCA Music Hall, on the Center's west side.

For several years, I would go there with my family to see the Christmas spectacular.

Rockefeller Center was built by John the Second. Its construction -- the problems and the people -- are described in fascination detail by Ms. Loebl.

Another Rockefeller wonder that I enjoyed was the Museum of Modern Art, often called MoMA in the City. It was Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, John the Second's wife, who was primarily responsible for building the Museum. And it was Nelson, one of her sons --later to become Vice President -- who took over and masterminded the Museum's stunning collection of modern art.

I still remember my first visit to MoMA.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I enjoyed reading this book about the Rockefellers' contribution to the art world, a major problem with it is the lack of images. I supposed copyright issues may have limited the number of images the author could have used, but still, this is a book on art !?!?

Nevertheless, the book is well written and researched and gives the reader a flavor for the first four generations of Rockefellers in addition to their contribution to American culture. It was a pleasure to read, and I benefitted by filling in gaps in my knowledge as well as deepening my understanding (especially Nelson and John 3 rd), as this has been my fifth book I read on the family. I plan on visiting Kykuit this coming spring. Visiting the MOMA will never be the same.
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