Photo by Andy Romer, courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The striking architecture of Pocantico is matched by an extensive collection of both fine and decorative art spanning many centuries and cultures. Largely assembled by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and later expanded by their son Nelson, the collections highlight the artistic patronage and diverse interests of four generations of the Rockefeller family.
Much of the collection is accessible to the public via Kykuit tours, which run Thursdays through Sundays from May to early November. Virtual exhibitions from the collection are also available online from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Hanging throughout the estate are portraits of both Rockefeller family members and U.S. statesmen by notable artists, including Sir Thomas Lawrence, Gilbert Stuart, Joseph Alexander Ames, John Singer Sargent, Adele Herter, James Shannon, and Jo Davidson.
Numerous 18th-century English and French prints, assembled by John D. Rockefeller Jr. when the house was first built, line the walls of Kykuit. In the early 1960s, Nelson Rockefeller added a series of art galleries to display paintings, prints, sculptures, and tapestries by some of the most important artists of his time, including Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.
The estate’s vast sculpture collection employs a range of media: bronze, terracotta, plaster, wood, lead, iron—even chrome-plated bumpers. A marble Bodhisattva from the Tang Dynasty, acquired by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in the 1920s, is one of Kykuit’s most beloved treasures.
Outside, pavilions, grottos, classical sculptures, and fountains are incorporated into the landscape. Commissioned in 1913, “The Oceanus Fountain,” a replica of Giambologna's fountain of 1576 for the Boboli Gardens of Florence, commands the forecourt. Nearby, early-20th-century sculptures by George Grey Barnard, Karl Bitter, Janet Scudder, and others accent the gardens.
Nelson Rockefeller added more than 70 works of modern sculpture by European and American artists, including Henry Moore, Aristide Maillol, Louise Nevelson, and David Smith. These works reflect major sculptural trends of the 20th century, and their skillful placement in the gardens evidenced Nelson’s keen eye in choosing the perfect place for each.
Decorative Arts and Design
The decorative arts at Kykuit include antique furnishings; silk draperies; glassware; Chinese, Isfahan, and Savonnerie carpets; and ceramics. Chinese ceramics from the Han (200 B.C.–220 A.D.), Tang (618–907 A.D.), Ming (1368–1644), and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties were acquired by both John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Nelson Rockefeller. European ceramics in the collection include Worcester porcelain services and several 18th-century Meissen birds.
The Coach Barn displays a collection of antique and vintage carriages and automobiles. Dating from 1870 to 1920, the carriages reflect marvels of craftsmanship with ingenious suspension systems, highly lacquered finishes, leatherwork, and wire wheels. Also on view are horse tack, coachmen’s and footmen’s livery, and various riding and driving accoutrements. The automobile collection surveys more than a half century’s development in automotive design, from an early 1907 Ford Model S to a 1959 Chrysler-Ghia Imperial limousine.