The Worlds of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia, Aesthetics, and Ambiguity

by Evan Ward

Jan 1, 2010
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, John Ensor Harr and Peter J. Johnson wrote the definitive biography, spanning two volumes, of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, the oldest son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Their books, The Rockefeller Century(1988) and The Rockefeller Conscience (1991), offer the ideal starting point for more focused studies on the life of the self-effacing brother of Abby, David, Laurance, Nelson, and Winthrop Rockefeller. As a historian of tourism and travel I wanted to better understand how JDR 3rd's travel experiences influenced his collection of East and South Asian art, as well as the institutions that he established there and in the United States to foster cross-cultural understanding (including the International House in Tokyo, the India International Centre in New Delhi, and the Asia Society in New York) between East and West and among Asians themselves. As I worked in the Rockefeller Family Archives during the summer of 2010, however, I learned that JDR 3rd's travels not only shaped his interest in Asian art and crosscultural institutions, but, as the quote from the French travel-writer Nicolas Bouvier above suggests, also changed the man himself.
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