Joseph McCrindle, 85, Connoisseur of Art, Is Dead

July 18, 2008

By WILLIAM GRIMES

Joseph F. McCrindle, an art collector who amassed a trove of old master drawings and who founded and edited the Transatlantic Review to showcase young writers, died July 11 at his home in Manhattan. He was 85.

His death was confirmed by John Rowe, vice president of the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation, a philanthropic organization.

In style and upbringing, Mr. McCrindle harked back to the philanthropists who endowed the city’s cultural institutions and sometimes ran them as well. He grew up in a Fifth Avenue mansion designed by Stanford White and as a boy spent his allowance on rare books at auctions.

His formidable mother, Odette Feder, was a wealthy socialite who married Maj. J. Ronald McCrindle, a flying ace who fought with Allenby in Mesopotamia during World War I. In 1928 she abruptly divorced the major, married Count Guy du Bourg de Bozas, relocated to Paris and the south of France and left Joe to be raised by her parents. They indulged him with summer trips to Europe on the family yacht, where he acquired foreign languages and a taste for art.

Mr. McCrindle attended St. Paul’s School in Manhattan. After graduating from Harvard University in 1944, he served with the Office of Strategic Services in London as a translator, reaching the rank of first lieutenant. Later he earned a law degree at Yale, graduating with the Class of 1948.

Mr. McCrindle worked briefly on Wall Street and in publishing companies in New York and London before setting up on his own as a literary agent, representing a list of writers that included Philip Roth and John McPhee.

In 1959 he founded the Transatlantic Review, a quarterly based in London, with the goal, he said half jokingly, of promoting the kind of writers he could not sell to publishers. It offered an eclectic mix of knowns and unknowns — John Updike, Harold Pinter, Anthony Burgess and Iris Murdoch among the knowns — along with drawings, film criticism and interviews with writers.

After closing the Transatlantic Review in 1977, Mr. McCrindle created the Henfield Foundation, now called the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation, to award grants to arts, music and social justice organizations. Its annual prize to promising creative writing students has gone to A. M. Homes, Walter Mosley, Mona Simpson and Ethan Canin, among others.

Reserved and self-effacing, Mr. McCrindle moved restlessly through life, traveling constantly, moving from one project to the next and accumulating works of art on what often seemed like a nonstop shopping spree. He bought to please himself rather than to accumulate an investment portfolio. His principal enthusiasm was for old master drawings, of which he accumulated 2,500 in his lifetime.

“It’s not a plutocrat’s collection,” said George R. Goldner, the chairman of drawing and prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “He did well because he had a good eye.”

Mr. McCrindle also bought Italian baroque paintings, 19th-century drawings and works by British artists like Duncan Grant, Augustus John and Walter Sickert, as well as historical manuscripts, letters and pre-Columbian art. He donated many works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Yale Center for British Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Morgan Library & Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“He gave works to everyone, which is quite unusual for a collector,” said William M. Griswold, the director of the Morgan Library & Museum. “He really sought to place them where they would substantially add to an institution’s existing holdings.”

Mr. Rowe of the McCrindle Foundation said that the entire collection would be given to about 30 institutions in the United States, including, in New York, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Morgan Library & Museum and the Brooklyn Museum.

New York Times 


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