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|William B. Astor (1792-1875)
George A Baker (1821-1880)
Oil on canvas, 1872
Gift of the Partnership for New York City, Inc.
William Backhouse Astor was the eldest son and principal heir of trader-capitalist John Jacob Astor (1763-1848), founder of the Astor mercantile dynasty. Like his father, William invested heavily in New York City real estate, and in railroads, coal, and insurance companies, amassing a great fortune in an era of large fortunes. His major philanthropy was the Astor Library, founded by his father. After William’s death the Astor Library combined with the Lenox Library to form what is now the New York Public Library.
Three years before his death, Astor sat for New York City portraitist George A. Baker (a.k.a. George Augustus Baker Jr.). As a member of the National Academy of Design, Baker, a popular painter of portraits and genre scenes, exhibited widely in his lifetime.