Jayne Wrightsman, one of New York City’s best-dressed philanthropists and benefactors of the arts, has passed away at 99. She died on Saturday in her home in Manhattan.
A stylish fixture on New York City’s high-society scene, Wrightsman was particularly known for her involvement with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. According to The New York Times, Wrightsman (along with her late husband, Charles B. Wrightsman, an oil tycoon who died in 1986) gave the museum some of its most important European paintings over the years, including Monet’s The Garden of Monet’s House in Argenteuil, and a rare collection of 18th-century French decorative arts.
While Wrightsman had no formal training in the arts, she became a connoisseur of the field through her travels and studies. She eventually became a trustee at the Met and gave millions to the institution for buying art and refurbishing its galleries. “Jayne Wrightsman’s incredible impact on the Metropolitan Museum of Art cannot be overstated,” Max Hollein, the Met’s director, told the Times on Saturday. “Through her beneficence, expertise, and guidance, she has forever transformed the museum, and the museum will be forever connected with her.”
Having lived her early years in Michigan and Los Angeles, Wrightsman met her husband when she was only 24 years old. (He was 48.) As they traveled, they developed an appreciation for the arts, growing an impressive collection of 18th-century French decorative arts and furniture, as well as paintings by Europe’s most celebrated artists.
Along the way, they also developed an important friend circle of politicians, editors, curators, and the like. (Her Manhattan dinner parties were iconic for the guest lists alone.) They were particularly close friends of President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, who were their neighbors in Palm Beach; Wrightsman was also friends with Annette de la Renta, wife of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.
Though she often shied away from attending public events or parties, Wrightsman’s glamorous presence was indeed well known whenever she entered a room; she was the definition of high New York style. Back in 1965, her elegant gowns and signature bouffant even earned the honor of landing on the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.