Corcoran, William Wilson

Corcoran, William Wilson

(kôr`kərən), 1798–1888, American financier, philanthropist, and art collector, b. Georgetown, D.C. After becoming a successful banker, he retired in 1854 and devoted himself to his philanthropic activities, which included gifts to many educational and religious institutions, as well as the founding of the Louise Home for Women in Washington. His chief gift was the Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington, which had as its nucleus Corcoran's art collection. It was originally housed in what is now the Renwick Gallery (opened 1874), but outgrew it and moved to the marble building designed by Ernest FlaggFlagg, Ernest,
1857–1947, American architect, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. The 45-story Singer Building in New York City, which he built in 1908, marked a revolutionary height.
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 (opened 1897); the Clark Wing was added in 1928. The gallery had collections of paintings, sculpture, and ceramics, as well as an art school. In 2014 the Corcoran, which had been suffering severe financial problems, transferred its artworks and galleries to the National Gallery and its Corcoran College of the Arts and Design to George Washington Univ.
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Corcoran, William Wilson

(1798–1888) banker, art collector, philanthropist; born in Georgetown, Wash., D.C. He studied at Georgetown College (now Georgetown University) (c. 1814), joined his brothers in a dry goods business (1815), and later established a banking firm, Corcoran & Riggs (1840). He retired from banking in 1854, and devoted himself to collecting 19th-century American works of art. A supporter of the South during the Civil War, he lived abroad during that time. As a philanthropist he donated substantial sums to many educational, religious, and charitable institutions in America. He founded the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1859 and it was moved to its present location in 1897; his collection still forms the nucleus of the museum.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.