Reess Kennedy is a software engineer and tech entrepreneur.
As a sideline, the Staples High School Class of 2000 graduate studies innovation history — especially involving late 19th-century American entrepreneurs.
Think John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Plus Morris Ketchum Jesup.
A September “Friday Flashback” on Jesup caught Reess’ eye. He read with interest that the founder of the Westport Library (and namesake of our town green) was also a major benefactor of the American Museum of Natural History. (He also commissioned a 5-year anthropological expedition to Alaska and Siberia, which is why the northernmost piece of Greenland is named Cape Morris Jesup).
The next month Reess was at the New York museum’s American wing, exploring its labyrinth of oil paintings.
He found a work he remembered from college art history: “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” (George Caleb Bingham, 1845). A few days later, opening an old textbook to learn more about the work, he noticed a credit line: the “Morris K. Jesup Fund, 1933.”
Digging into the Met’s database, he learned Jesup was associated with an astonishing 313 pieces of art: paintings, sculptures, decorative boxes, you name it.
He’s returned to the Met’s American Wing since then, proud of the impact someone from his hometown had on the space.
Reess adds: “Maybe it’s just getting older and appreciating everything more. Maybe it’s that I spend so much time on my small laptop screen nstead of in these grand galleries.
“But I also think it’s the deep lesson of the pandemic: We shouldn’t take for granted that we’ll always have permission to get our eyes inches from the brush strokes of these beautiful masterpieces. It’s such a wonderful gift.”
And how few people know that the donor is a long-ago Westporter, whose name we remember only for a bust in our library, and a bit of green space nearby.
BONUS FEATURE: Reess offers more information on Morris Jesup, his fund and the Met.
He offered significant financial support to Frederic Edwin Church, a Hartford-born artist whose work is featured in the American Gallery.
Jesup’s generosity helped Church produce his masterwork “The Parthenon.” It was bequeathed to the museum by Jesup’s wife.
Thanks too to Reess, for uncovering this great photo of Morris Jesup, and his dog:
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Morris Jesup at the Met