Name: Jayne Wrightsman
Original name: Jane Kirkman Larkin
birth place: Flint, Michigan, U.S.
birth date: 21 October 1919
death place: New York, New York, U.S.
death date: 20 April 2019
Jayne Wrightsman is an American art collector, philanthropist, and the widow of Charles B. Wrightsman, an American oil executive who passed away in 1986.
Jayne was born in Michigan and when she was 12, her parents divorced and her mother took her and her siblings to Los Angeles, where Jane re-named herself “Jayne”.
After graduating from high school, she worked several different jobs: as a swimsuit model, selling gloves at Saks department store, or as an extra in Hollywood movies. Beautiful at young age, she was pursued by aspiring actors including Cary Grant, playboys, and heirs who took her to expensive restaurants and parties.
There are different versions as to how Jayne met her husband Charles Wrightsman, the president of Standard Oil of Kansas, one version is that she met him in one of the parties she was taken by one of her dates, but another version is more entertaining: while working as a swimsuit model at a department store, Jayne caught the attention of the Oklahoma oil baron, Charles Wrightsman, who reportedly said: 'I want that - the girl, not the suit.'
They were married on March 28, 1944 and settled in Palm Beach, Florida. Soon afterwards the couple acquired Blythedunes – a massive ocean-front, 28-room mansion designed by Maurice Fatio which previously belonged to another style icon Mona von Bismarck.
There in Palm Beach the couple became friends with their neighbours, Joseph and Rose Kennedy who introduced them to their son Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. For a time, John Kennedy stayed at the Wrightsman home for almost a month, taking daily swims in their saline permanently heated pool to ease his backache.
With her love of art, history and everything French, Jayne Wrightsman became friend with Jacqueline Kennedy and later her mentor in decorative art. It was she who introduced the famous French decorator Stephane Boudin to Jacqueline. When Jacqueline became First Lady, she asked Jayne to help with her restoration of the White House.
When Jacqueline was no longer First Lady, she continued to keep her friendship with Jayne. According to Marella Agnelli, yet another style icon and wife of Gianni Agnelli: "It was a cultural friendship", not an intimate one. As both women were famous being extremely private.
After their marriage, Charles Wrightsman became a Pygmalion to his wife, he hired tutors to teach her etiquettes, proper English as well as French, art and history, and spent fortunes to dress her in the best haute couture designers at the time: Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Givenchy, etc., and thus transformed her into an art connoisseur and style icon.
Vogue magazine started to take her photos with their photographers Horst. P. Horst and Cecil Beaton, and in 1965, Jayne entered into International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame of another woman's magazine Vanity Fair.
But Jayne Wrightsman is best known for her support of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
For decades, Jayne traveled the world with her husband, assembling a museum-quality collection of French furniture and Old Master paintings, which filled their homes in Palm Beach, New York and London.
In 1978, Charles and Wrightsman donated some artworks and artefacts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and over the years, they slowly donated most of their collections to the MET, which became Wrightsman Galleries of French Decorative Arts, a series of 18 stately and intimate galleries (originally arranged by Jayne Wrightsman with the help of Henri Samuel) housing 18th- and 19th-century French interiors and furnishings, originally made for Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, with 94 paintings and prints by artists such as El Greco, Fragonard, Claude Monet, Peter Paul Rubens, Eugène Delacroix, Jacques-Louis David, Johannes Vermeer, Goya and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others, as well as rare books and other object d'arts.
It is tragic to see how aged she has become… one wonders whether it is worthwhile suffering for so much of her life. Yet if she left him, she could be penniless.'
After her husband’s death in 1986 at the age of 90, Mrs. Wrightsman continued her patronage of the Met, as well as the British Museum, the Louvre, and the Hermitage.
Jayne Wrightsman died on 20 April 2019 in her New York home on 820 Fifth Avenue. She has no children.