Greatest Art Collectors Series:
J Paul Getty

Biography of American Art/Antiquities Collector.

JEANETTE DEMONT (m.1923; d.1926)
1 son: George F Getty II (1924–1973)
ALLENE ASHBY (m.1926; d.1928)
ADOLPHINE HELMLE (m.1928; d.1932)
1 son: Jean Ronald Getty (born 1929)
ANN RORK (m.1932; d.1936)
2 sons: Eugene P Getty (1932–2003);
Gordon Peter Getty (b.1933)
LOUISE LYNCH (m.1939; d.1958)
1 son: Timothy Ware Getty (1946–58).

Jean Paul Getty was a philanthropist and among the greatest art collectors in America.

J Paul Getty (1892-1976)

The American billionaire oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty was also a keen collector of paintings, sculptures and antiquities. His art collection formed the foundation of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, to which he bequeathed a further $660 million, on his demise. In 1953 he founded the J. Paul Getty Trust, which runs the Museum - consisting of the Getty Villa in Malibu, and the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, LA - as well as a number of art education and research facilities including the Getty Foundation, the Getty Art History Information Program, and the Research and Conservation Institute. The Trust is reportedly - at least in terms of liquidity - the world's wealthiest arts institution, although its assets - which include masterpieces by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Monet - are not comparable with those of the top-ranked art museums, such as the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence or the Vatican Museums.

In his collector's autobiography, The Joys of Collecting (published 1966), Getty wrote that his favourite areas of art were sculpture of ancient Greece, Renaissance art, Persian carpets of the 16th century, Savonnerie carpets, French furniture and tapestry art. An Anglophile who spent the last 24 years of his life in England, one of his famous business remarks was: "The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights."

Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922)
Greatest collector of Impressionism.
Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898)
Greatest collector of Russian art.
Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924)
Boston decorative/fine art collector.
Sergei Shchukin (1854-1936)
Patron of Matisse, Picasso.
Solomon R Guggenheim (1861-1949)
US art collector, museum-founder.
Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939)
First modern dealer in Paris.
Ivan Morozov (1871-1921)
Russian collector of Cezanne, Bonnard.
Dr Albert C Barnes (1872-1951)
America's greatest art collector.
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942)
Founder of the Whitney Museum.
Samuel Courtauld (1876-1947)
Collector, Impressionist paintings.

Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler (1884-1979)
Dealer of Picasso & Cubism.
Duncan Phillips (1886-1966)
Founder of Phillips Collection.
Paul Guillaume (1891-1934)
Dealer of Ecole de Paris paintings.
Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979)
Collected modern abstract art.
Leo Castelli (1907-99)
Leading New York art dealer.
Charles Saatchi (b.1943)
Collects contemporary art.

Many of the paintings collected
by J Paul Getty are
available online as Poster Art.

For details of the greatest galleries
and arts venues, see:
Best Art Museums.


J Paul Getty was the son of the oil tycoon George Franklin Getty, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. After obtaining degrees in economics and political science from the University of Southern California, the University of California, Berkeley, and finally Magdalen College, Oxford University, he plunged into the oil industry in Oklahoma, where his father owned a number of oil fields. He proved to be a natural entrepreneur, making a million within 3 years. Moving to California, he set about building a huge oil empire under the banner of the Getty Oil Company. Shrewdly investing his resources during the Great Depression, Getty acquired Pacific Western Oil Corporation, Tidewater Oil and Skelly Oil, which he later merged into Getty Oil Company. His greatest gamble was in 1949, when he bought an apparently worthless 60-year oil concession in Saudi Arabia. After spending $30 million developing the site, he eventually struck oil, becoming one of the world's richest individuals in the process.

For a guide to the different,
categories/meanings of visual
arts, see: Definition of Art.
For a list of different categories,
see: Types of Art.

For a list of the Top 10 painters/
sculptors: Best Artists of All Time.
For the best oils/watercolours,
see: Greatest Paintings Ever.

During the early 1950s, he left America and settled in England, from where he ran his American and Saudi Arabian business empire. It was at this point (1953) that he set up the J Paul Getty Trust to manage and operate the art collection which he had been steadily accumulating over the years. In 1954, the Trust opened the J Paul Getty Museum in a wing of his house in Malibu, Los Angeles. In 1974, this was transferred to a neighbouring property, recreated as a Roman villa and christened the Getty Villa. After his death, a second branch of the museum was opened in 1997 at the more accessible location of Brentwood, Los Angeles, to house all the museum's art collections other than the antiquities, which remained at the Getty Villa. Getty himself died in England in June 1976 at the age of 83. Married and divorced five times, he was survived by three of his sons.



The J Paul Getty Museum

This is Getty's greatest cultural legacy. It is divided into two parts: one at the Getty Villa in Malibu, Los Angeles, which contains art from ancient Greece and Rome; the other at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Brentwood, Los Angeles, containing Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. The $1 billion Getty Center - actually a 24-acre campus for a number of different arts bodies run by the Trust (like the Getty Foundation, Getty Art History Information Program, Conservation and Research Institutes, the Getty Center For Education in the Arts, and the Getty Grant Program) - receives some 1.3 million visitors every year which makes it one of the most popular museums in America.

The J Paul Getty Museum Art Collection

The Brentwood-based collection features European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, decorative arts, and American art as well as modern and contemporary fine art photography. But Is Photography Art? Masterpieces include: Irises (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh, Arii Matamoe (1892) by Paul Gauguin, Wheatstack (1890) by Claude Monet, among others. The Getty Villa is an educational institute and museum specializing in the fine arts of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The Villa art collection consists of a total of 44,000 antiquities (6,500 BCE - 400 CE) - Greek Pottery (7000 - 30 BCE), Greek Sculpture (c.600-100 BCE), Etruscan art (c.700-400 BCE) and Roman art (c.200 BCE - 400 CE) - laid out amidst classical Roman-style architecture and gardens.

For more about important people involved in the story of painting and sculpture, see: History of Art.

• For more about the finest artists, see: Famous Painters.
• For more about fine arts buyers and their collections, see: Homepage.

Modern Artists
© All rights reserved.