Art: Final Severance

His name was John L. Severance, but his role in Cleveland was Lorenzo de' Medici's. A bearded, bespectacled man of placid temperament and steady habits who had inherited a vast fortune from his father, Standard Oil's Louis H. Severance, he made up for an otherwise uneventful life by making himself Cleveland's most lavish patron of the arts. As a patron, he had a tycoon's audacity.

Severance whipped the Cleveland Museum of Art into shape. He helped found the Cleveland Orchestra. He offered, in 1928, to put up a million dollars to give Cleveland the...

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