Art Collecting

Jean Kislak – Knox County VillageSoup | Pro Club Bd

ROCKPORT — Prominent art collector Jean Ellis Hart Kislak, 90, died at home on July 16, 2022.

Professionally, Jean was a respected art consultant with a keen eye for aesthetics and a savvy business acumen, which she used to guide the creation of one of the most acclaimed art collections in the country. Personally, she was an advocate for art and animal welfare. Through her marriage to real estate innovator and philanthropist Jay I. Kislak, Jean has forged a strong and benevolent partnership that will live on in her lavish gifts to the world.

The daughter of real estate developer Frank Ernst Hart and educator Isabelle Ellis Hart, Jean was born on November 25, 1931 on Long Island, NY. Her parents divorced when she was young, and Jean was raised in Charlotte, NC, where her mother lived. She was Chair of Economics at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, NC

After attending Queens College in Charlotte, NC and Peace College in Raleigh, NC, Jean moved to South Florida. In Miami, she met and married journalist and businessman Louis G. Johnson of Atlanta, Georgia. Their daughter Jennifer was born in Miami, Florida. After the Johnsons divorced, Jean spent a decade at Southeast Bank in Miami, where she helped build the bank’s contemporary art collection, which rose to prominence as one of the most respected corporate art collections in the country.

Through mutual friends and a shared passion for art, Jean met Jay I. Kislak in Miami. They married in 1985 and spent the next three decades exploring the world. Their adventures took them from the North Pole to the South Pole and spanned all continents. During their travels, the Kislaks amassed remarkable and diverse collections of art, antiquities, books, and artifacts.

Jean’s favorite compendia varied in focus, ranging from inherited cookbooks to exquisite Bohemian (Czech) glassware to an extraordinary collection of artworks, artifacts and documents related to the life of Emma, ​​Lady Hamilton, mistress of British Admiral Horatio Nelson and Muse of the artist George Romney. The Emma Hamilton Collection has been featured in exhibitions at prestigious institutions including the University of Pennsylvania and New York’s The Grolier Club. Following an acclaimed exhibition in 2017 at the National Maritime Museum, Royal Museums Greenwich, in London, England, Jean donated the Emma Hamilton collection to the American Friends of Royal Museums Greenwich, England, for display in National Maritime Museum exhibitions in the UK will be shown to future generations.

Through Jean’s friendship with historian Flora Fraser, Lady Hamilton’s biographer, Jean and Flora helped erect a memorial to Lady Hamilton in Calais, France. Jean was Honorary Vice-President of England’s The 1805 Club, dedicated to preserving monuments to Admiral Lord Nelson and other navigators of the day.

Jean was also an acknowledged lover of the works of Ludwig Bemelmans. Her collection of printed books, manuscripts and artwork related to Bemelmans and his creation Madeline was featured in a 2015 exhibition at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania. As the keynote speaker at the opening, Jean captivated the audience with her insights and storytelling.

Jean has been involved in community service, giving her time and support to a variety of cultural and nonprofit boards, and has been recognized by Who’s Who in America. Many organizations have benefited from her involvement, including the Florida Fine Arts Council, the Florida Humanities Board, the Center for the Fine Arts (later known as the Miami Art Museum and now the Perez Art Museum Miami), the Lowe Museum, and Beaux Arts at the university of Miami, the Theater League of South Florida and the Miami-Dade County Zoological Society, among others.

Nationally, Jean has served on the board of directors of the National Wildflower Association and on the Art and Architecture Committee of the Library of Congress. She has received special recognition for her volunteer work on behalf of the Burn Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, and her contributions to the arts have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Florida Governor’s Art Award and honors from the Business Committee for Arts, WPBT Public Television and the Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places program.

For many years the Kislaks summered in Rockport. Jean has served on the board of directors of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland and on the board of directors of the PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) Animal Adoption Center, which serves Midcoast towns in Maine. Jean funded the establishment of the Jean H. Kislak Community Dog Park in Rockport.

Jean also played instrumental roles in the Jay I. Kislak Foundation, an internationally respected institution dedicated to the cultures and history of early America, and in the Kislak Family Foundation, which provides leadership and innovation in education, the arts, and the humanities supports , animal welfare and environmental presentation. With her husband, she was instrumental in establishing the Jay I. Kislak Collection as the centerpiece of a permanent exhibition at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and in the creation of Kislak Centers at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Miami, and Miami Dade involved Uni.

In the mid-1960s, The Miami Herald cited Jean as one of Miami’s most beautiful women “inside and outside.” Throughout her life, Jean’s blend of beauty, intellect, grace and humor made her a leader and sought-after advisor in the fields of arts and culture, humanities and philanthropy.

She is survived by her daughter Jennifer Johnson Rettig (Noel) of Sarasota, Florida. She was predeceased by her 33-year-old husband, Jay I. Kislak.

At Jean’s request, no funeral or memorial service will be held and she will be buried at her family’s grave in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Upper Montclair, NJ

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