Merchant (Grocery/Tea and Coffee)/Arts Patron
Born 24 March 1802 in Southport, New York
Died 28 November 1874 in New York (Manhattan), New York
Buried Fairfield East Cemetery, Fairfield, Connecticut
Proposed by N/A: Founder
Elected 13 January 1847 at age forty-four
Archivist’s Note: He ostensibly resigned sometime between 1851 and 1855 and was reinstated in April 1857 with a new proposer, Charles M. Leupp. Father of Frederick Sturges; brother-in-law of John L. Cady; father-in-law of J. Pierpont Morgan and William H. Osborn; grandfather of Henry Fairfield Osborn, William Church Osborn, and Frederick Sturges Jr.
Within our circle Jonathan Sturges won from the few such affection and honor for his kindly heart and liberal love of culture as crowned the choice repute in which he was held by the world for integrity of life and nobility of spirit.
Augustus R. Macdonough
1875 Century Association Reports
Sturges was born in 1802 and died in 1874. He joined the grocers R. and L. Reed in 1821, owned partly by Luman Reed (a major collector of American art, most of whose collection is now at the New-York Historical Society), and by 1828 was a partner in the firm. An influential figure in New York business circles, he was also the director of several railroad companies. A liberal and outspoken supporter of the national government during the Civil War, Sturges helped establish the Union League Club and was its president in 1863. Later, he was active in the measures to break up the Tweed ring and to promote municipal reform in New York. An intimate friend of Bryant, he was among the most active in the movement that led to the presentation of the Bryant vase.
Sturges inherited from his father-in-law a fondness for the Hudson River School of painting. He financed [Asher] Durand’s trip abroad in 1840 and 1841, commissioned Kindred Spirits in memory of [Thomas] Cole, and also owned works by [Frederic] Church and [William Sidney] Mount. He was a founder-member of the Sketch Club, active in the American Art-Union and the president and one of the main contributors to the New York Gallery of Fine Arts. He was also a trustee of the National Academy of Design, which requested that he sit for a portrait by an artist of his choosing. His response noted that “I can truly say that my connection with art and artists has been a source of great profit to myself and family, in the refining influences it has had upon us all for many, many years.” He chose Durand to do the portrait.
A recent Times Literary Supplement (February 3, 2006, p. 32), in a review of The Hudson, states: “One of the most famous paintings of the Hudson River School is Kindred Spirits. by Asher B. Durand and commissioned by Jonathan Sturges, a New York merchant and leading patron. . . . It is both regrettable and controversial that last summer the New York Public Library . . . sold it.”
William A. Frosch
“Our Original Amateurs, 2009”