Mary Cushing Fosburgh, 72, who had been active in cultural circles in New York City for many years, died yesterday at her home there. She suffered from a circulatory ailment.

She was the widow of James W. Fosburgh, an artist, art historian and former adviser on art to the White House, who died last April.

Mrs. Fosburgh was born in Baltimore, the oldest of three daughters of the late Dr. Harvey Cushing, a noted Boston neurosurgeon. The three Cushing daughters became known for their beauty and brilliant marriages.

Mrs. Fosburgh was first married to socialite Vincent Astor, whom she divorced in 1953. Although she was less in the public eye then yer younger sisters, Betsy and Barbara, she participated in the affairs of many art and philanthropic organizations.

She was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 26 years. She also was a trustee of the New York City Center and a member of the governing board of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Mrs. Fosburgh was an ardent supporter of the American National Theater Association and served as chairman of fund-raising events for the Henry Street Nursing Service in New York City.

During World War II, she was head of the Women's Division of the New York City War Fund.

She and her husband had amassed a large collection of art, which included the work of Cezanne Renoir, Winslow Homer and the modern painters, Walter Sickert and William Nicholson.

She is survived by her sister, Betsy (Mrs. John H. Whitney), of New York, and a brother, Henry K. Cushing, of Boston. Her other sister, Barbara, (Mrs. William S. Paley), died in July.