Masterpieces by Picasso, Rodin, Noguchi, Renoir, Matisse and more from the collection of a man who dedicated his life to his faith and his community — offered during the 20th Century Week sales in New York
Ronald P. Stanton was born in 1928 in Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt in Germany. His humble origins and the tumultuous political period in which he grew up bred a rare determination that would help him rise to become one of New York’s most prominent businessmen and philanthropists.
An epitome of the American success story, Stanton described his journey as one ‘that brought us some hardship, tremendous good fortune, a wonderful family, many good friends and ultimately a successful, rich life.’
In reaction to the worsening situation in Germany in the early 1930s, Ronald’s mother Hedwig ‘Hedi’ Kern had the foresight to smuggle money to Switzerland. By April 1937, nine-year-old Ronald and his mother were able to flee Europe for New York City, shipping abroad only a few items, including a centuries-old Shabbat candelabra and a portrait of an ancestor.
The fledgling entrepreneur graduated from the City College of New York to become a trainee at Interore, the International Ore & Fertilizer Corporation. In 1950 he was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War, and, following service, he returned to Interore where he went on to become an executive vice-president. In 1965, setting out on his own, he founded the hugely successful Transammonia (now called Trammo) — a merchandising and trading company that eventually became the largest privately-owned firm in New York.
Stanton’s upbringing and his mother’s emphasis on the importance of family and philanthropy — particularly the tradition of tzedakah, or righteous giving — left an indelible mark. ‘Even when we had no money and very little to share, to give in this unasked way was the motivation of my mother’s life,’ he recalled.
Ronald Stanton embraced philanthropy and service, giving generously to the arts, education, health care and Congregation Shearith Israel, America’s oldest Jewish congregation, where he and his mother had found safe haven upon arriving in America.
He immersed himself in the life of New York City, finding beauty and gaining knowledge through regular visits to the opera, the ballet and museums, particularly the Museum of Modern Art.
Stanton filled his homes on Fifth Avenue and in North Salem with an impeccable collection of Impressionist and modern art, Post-War and contemporary sculpture, Asian art, period European furniture and 19th-century painting, acquiring works by Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Isamu Noguchi, Pierre Bonnard, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henry Moore and Henri Matisse.
Meanwhile, he provided significant financial support and leadership to a variety of organisations within New York City, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Abraham Joshua Heschel School.
Ronald Stanton affected countless lives through his donations, as reflected in his being honoured as a Chevalier of France’s Legion of Honour, receiving the Museum of Modern Art’s David Rockefeller Award, and being awarded an honorary degree from Yeshiva University. These honours were a consequence of his striving, in his words, to ‘make a contribution to worthwhile things so that your own existence has meaning.’ By that standard, Ronald Stanton’s was a life that was rich with meaning.