De Forest, Robert W. (Robert Weeks), 1848-1931
type Dealer/Gallery Collector
dates 1848-1931
city New York City
other citiesEasthampton, MA; New Haven, CT; Bonn, Germany;
sex M
history Robert Weeks de Forest, also known as “the First Citizen of New York,” was an art collector, a founder of the Grand Central Galleries, lawyer (Weeks, Forester, and de Forest), businessman, and philanthropist. He served as president of the American Federation of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Russel Sage Foundation, the Welfare Council of New York, the Prison Associates of New York, and the State Charities Aid Association, among other appointments.

As a businessman, he served as general counsel for fifty years and twenty-two years for the Central Railroad of New Jersey. Also, a director of the following: New York & Long Branch Railroad, New Jersey Cables, New York Trust Company, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and Provident Loan Society.

He was married to Emily Johnston de Forest (1851-1942), the daughter of the railroad executive, art collector, and the first president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Taylor Johnston (1820–1893). Together with his wife in 1924, de Forest gave the Met its “American Wing,” along with a collection of American furniture. Unfortunately, the Great Depression diminished de Forest’s estate by the time of his death, and other promised gifts to the Met, $300,000, were not fulfilled.

He served as the art committee chairman for New York’s Hudson Fulton Exhibition, which assembled Dutch paintings from Henry Hudson’s time alongside American artisans (furniture, silver, and pottery). Additionally, he lent the following works of art to the exhibition:
-A Portrait of a lady, by Bartholomeus van der Helst (location unknown today)
-A Portrait of Ceracchi (Italian sculptor born 1760 and came to America 1791, made busts of Washington, Hamilton, and others)

De Forest was a member of the University, Century, Down Town, Grolier, City Midday, Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht, City, Automobile, Piping Rock, and National Arts Club of New York; the Huguenot Society and the Metropolitan Club of Washington, D.C. He was also a member of the Jekyll Island Club, organized in 1886 by 100 of the wealthiest men in America and made an island off the coast of Georgia.

De Forest’s mother, Julia Weeks de Forest, was the New York Stock Exchange president’s, Robert D. Weeks’ daughter. His father, Henry G. de Forest, was an attorney and member of a prominent New York Family.

updated 03/22/2024 12:09:29
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Repository Description Links
American Art Archives
Weitzel letter collection, 1863-1931.
see details...
The New-York Historical Society
Manuscript Department
Letterbook, 1899-946. Levy, Florence N. (Florence Nightingale), 1870-1947. see details...
The New-York Historical Society
Manuscript Department
Letterbooks, 1904-1909. McClellan, George B. (George Brinton), 1865-1940. see details...
The New-York Historical Society
Manuscript Department
Edwin Howland Blashfield Papers,1867-1936. see details...
The New-York Historical Society
Manuscript Department
William Thompson Dewart Collection of Frank A. Munsey and New York Sun Papers. see details...
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Please see individual record for location
Office of the Secretary records, 1870-[ongoing]. see details...
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Ingalls Library and Archives
Records of the Director's Office: Frederic Allen Whiting, 1913-1930 see details...

see alsoDe Forest, Emily Johnston, 1851-1942
De Forest, Lockwood, 1850-1932
Johnston, John Taylor, 1820-1893