Whitney, Gertrude Vanderbilt (1875–1942)

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Whitney, Gertrude Vanderbilt (1875–1942)

American sculptor, patron of the arts, and philanthropist who founded the Whitney Museum of American Art . Name variations: Mrs. Henry Payne Whitney; Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney; Mrs. H.P. Whitney. Born Gertrude Vanderbilt on January 9, 1875, in New York City; died in New York of heart complicationson April 18, 1942; daughter of Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt (1845–1934, a socialite) and Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843–1899, a banker, investor, and philanthropist); educated by private tutors and at the Brearley School for Girls; studied sculpture under Hendrik Andersen and James E. Fraser, and under Andrew O'Connor in Paris; married Henry (Harry) Payne Whitney, on August 25, 1896; children: Flora Payne Whitney (b. July 29, 1897); Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (b. February 20, 1899); Barbara Whitney (b. March 21, 1903).

Exhibited Aspiration at Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, began studying with James Earle Fraser, and opened her first studio, on West 33rd Street, New York City (1901); joined the board of directors of the Greenwich House Social Settlement, moved her studio to 40th Street (1903); became student at Art Students League, finished American Athlete to exhibit at the St. Louis Exhibition, raised $7,000 for the Downtown Day Nursery (1904); organized Colony Club exhibition, opened 19 MacDougal Alley studio (1907); Paganisme Immortel accepted by the National Academy of Design and opened Paris studio (1910); Head of Spanish Peasant shown at the Paris Salon, Study of a Head exhibited at Independent Artists Show in New York City, began building studio at Westbury (1911); received commission for Titanic Memorial (1912); exhibited five works at all-women artists show at Gorham Art Gallery, New York City; opened Westbury Studio, bought Whitney Studio at 8 West 8th Street, New York City (1913); participated in Nassau Hospital benefit and Committee of Mercy for World War I benefit, held "50–50" exhibition at Whitney Studio, organized and funded American hospital in France, founded Friends of Young Artists (1914); started Whitney Studio prize competition to benefit Fraternité des Artistes, received Medal of Award at Panama-Pacific Exhibition for Fountain of El Dorado (1915); held single-woman show of her own works at Whitney Studio, exhibited personal art collection and her own works at the Newport (Rhode Island) Art Association, became member of Executive Committee of the Women's National Committee of the (Charles Evans) Hughes Alliance (1916); had retrospective show at San Francisco Art Association's Palace of Fine Arts, and Head of Titanic exhibited in Philadelphia Plastic Club all-woman sculptors show; made an associate member of National Sculpture Society (1916); created set design for Giovanitti's play As It Was in the Beginning, created decorations for the Hero Land Allied Bazaar, organized "Allies of Sculpture" benefit exhibition at Ritz-Carlton (1917); toured retrospective show of her sculptures in seven midwestern towns, and formed Whitney Studio Club (1918); had own show entitled "Impressions of War" at Whitney Studio (1919); wrote five articles for Art and Decoration, organized traveling "Overseas Exhibition" (1920); had own shows at Luxembourg Museum and McLean's Gallery in London (1921); exhibited at National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors Show, awarded honorary degree from New York University (1922) and Tufts University (1924); Buffalo Bill won bronze medallion at Paris Salon (1924); awarded the French Legion of Honor medal, and opened Whitney Studio Club Shop (1926); disbanded Whitney Studio Club and Shop (1928); opened Whitney Museum of American Art (1932); published Walking the Dusk (1932); awarded honorary degree from Rutgers University (1934); court battle over custody of Gloria Vanderbilt (1934–38); had solo exhibition at Knoedler's Gallery (1936); elected associate of National Academy of Design, won Medal of Honor of the National Sculpture Society, awarded honorary degree from Russell Sage College (1940).


Aspiration (1901); American Athlete and Four Seasons (1904); Pan, Boy with Parrot, and pair of caryatids for Hotel Belmont (1905); Paganisme Immortel and Science (1907); Boy with Pipes, Study of a Head, Dancing Girl, and Wherefore (1910); Aztec Fountain, Head of Spanish Peasant, Despair, Portrait Head of an Athlete, Head of Young Man, and fountain for New Arlington Hotel in Washington, D.C. (1912); Caryatid, Bacchante, Chinoise, and Self-Sacrifice (1913); Titanic Memorial, El Dorado Fountain, and El Dorado Frieze (1914); Gassed, In the Trenches, Victory, At His Post, His Last Charge, His Bunkie, The Aviator, all undated but probably completed during the war years (1914–17); Spirit of the Daughters of the American Revolution (1917); Madison Square Victory Arch, Refugees, Honorably Discharged, Orders, Spirit of the Red Cross Nurse, Private in the 15th, The 102nd Engineers, Chateau-Thierry, and On the Top (1919); Washington Heights War Memorial (1921); Buffalo Bill and Damrosch medal (1922); St. Nazaire Monument and sculpture for Mt. Hope Community Mausoleum (1924); Samuel Untermyer's Woodlawn Cemetery shrine (1925); Columbus Monument (1928); Friendship Fountain (1931); Unemployed (1932); John, Leda and the Swan, Salome, Daphne, Woman With Child, and Pan with His Teacher (1933); Devotion, Nun, and Gwendolyn (1934); The Kiss (1935); Peter Stuyvesant Monument and Mercy (1936); Spirit of Flight (To the Morrow, 1939); other undated works include a fountain for the Colony Club and a frieze for the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, whose wealth shaped her every action and thought, was born into the richest family in the United States. Great-granddaughter of the famous, self-made millionaire "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt and daughter of banker, investor, and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt II and Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt , Gertrude grew up in the pampered lap of luxury during America's Gilded Age. When Whitney was a young woman she hated the strictures that her money imposed. She disliked public scrutiny and feared that people cared for her only for her wealth. She wrestled with the expectations that came with being a Vanderbilt heiress: to marry a man from her class, to build show mansions, to be a consummate hostess, perhaps to give some of the money away, as her father had done. When she was older, however, Whitney learned how to use her money for personal happiness. She became a noted sculptor, was a patron of poverty-stricken artists, championed American art at a time when few believed it had any worth, and founded the Whitney Museum of American Art with her own art collection and left her fortune to the museum upon her death. In the end, it was her name and

her money that allowed her to make an enormous and far-reaching contribution to the cultural life of the United States by her unflinching support for modern American art and artists.

Gertrude Vanderbilt was born on January 9, 1875, in New York City, one of two daughters in a family of six; her sister Gladys Moore Vanderbilt , the seventh child, would not be born until Gertrude was eleven. Whitney confessed to her diary at age 18 that she wished she had been born a boy because boys could do things that girls could not. Even as a child, she longed for freedom of action, a freedom that would elude her throughout her life. Her childhood was not unpleasant, however. She had fine clothing made for her by Parisian couturiers, excellent schooling, countless toys, and beautiful surroundings. She also had a close and loving family. American aristocrats in the late 19th century were a world unto themselves, and Gertrude reaped the benefits of belonging to that tightly knit circle. The Vanderbilts socialized only with others of enormous means and married within their set.

I had to fight, fight all the time to break down the walls of half-sympathetic and half-scornful criticism based on no other concept than the one that [art] wasn't done by people in my position.

—Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Whitney's girlhood consisted of daily lessons from tutors in her home (until 1889 when she attended the exclusive Brearley School in New York City), trips to Europe in the summers where she toured museums and historical sites and was fitted for her wardrobe, excursions to relatives' homes, formal social calls with her mother, dancing lessons, yachting, tennis, card games, swimming, and watching the men and boys race boats and horses. The Vanderbilts, like the rest of the very wealthy, followed the social season as it revolved among New York, Newport, and Europe. When she was a girl, most of Gertrude's activities took place in all-female groups, except dancing school. By the time of her social debut in 1895, when she was officially introduced to society in a series of balls, parties, and dinners, more of her doings involved men. Whitney, who was always chaperoned, as were all unmarried women of her class, was the object of much male attention. Intelligent but shy, tall and willowy, with dark hair and green eyes, she made a striking debutante. She turned down several marriage proposals, some because she thought the suitors were only fortune hunting.

On August 25, 1896, Gertrude Vanderbilt married Henry (Harry) Payne Whitney. Though the Whitneys had less money than the Vanderbilts, they boasted an older and more aristocratic lineage. Both families approved of the match. The newlyweds honeymooned in Japan and returned to begin the task of remodeling and furnishing their homes—a summer mansion in Newport, Rhode Island; the Whitney brown-stone in New York City, at 2 West 57th Street, where Harry had grown up; and a huge, rambling country home on Long Island, called Westbury. The Whitneys entertained lavishly, but Gertrude found the social duties tedious and unenjoyable. She became pregnant with their first child, Flora Payne Whitney , who was born less than a year after the wedding. In early 1899, Gertrude gave birth to their second child, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney.

By this time, Harry was spending more and more time with his father. They worked together on business projects and investments, and amused and enriched themselves by buying and racing thoroughbreds. In some years, Harry's stable won as much as a quarter of a million dollars. Harry was also a serious polo player. Both business and, more often, pleasure, took him away from Gertrude, and she suspected that he was involved in extramarital affairs. Since she considered Harry her one true love, the realization of his straying devastated her and made her circumscribed existence as a socialite even more hollow. In the absence of clear-cut and fulfilling roles, and with a small army of nursemaids, governesses, and tutors to tend to her children, she looked for something substantial to fill her time.

Whitney settled upon art. From her earliest years, art had held a special fascination. She had always sketched and painted, and while touring had lingered longest in the art museums. In 1900, she began taking classes with Hendrik Christian Andersen, a European sculptor who conceived mammoth works. The scale appealed to Whitney. Though she was a diligent student, it was not easy for her to carve out time away from the expectations of her husband, children, and society. In the summer of 1901, the Whitneys traveled to Europe without their children. Harry spent his hours playing polo and scouting for new horses while Gertrude haunted museums and dined with the local sculptors. Later that year, she exhibited her first work, Aspiration, at the Pan-American Exposition. The acceptance of Aspiration was the sort of encouragement that she needed to pursue what was, by then, clearly a calling.

Later that year, Whitney established two studios, as her determination to sculpt increased. One was in New York City, on West 33rd Street; the other was at Westbury. She also found another teacher, the noted American sculptor James Earle Fraser. In 1903, she combined art and philanthropy as she became a member of the board of directors of the Greenwich House Social Settlement in New York City, one of her lifelong charities. She subsidized and taught art classes there, and Greenwich House would continue to figure in her artistic endeavors. That year, Whitney was again pregnant. There are hints in her diary that the benevolent work at Greenwich and the pregnancy were attempts on her part to regain her husband's love. Barbara Whitney was born on March 21, 1903, but the marriage would never again be as it had in the early years. Initially disapproving, Harry would eventually become distantly supportive of his wife's work, but he did not cease having affairs. Ultimately, Whitney would also find solace outside the marriage.

During the early 1900s, she committed herself seriously to two main goals: becoming the finest sculptor possible and supporting artists in need. In pursuit of the first, she took classes at the Art Students League in New York City. In 1904, she exhibited American Athlete at the St. Louis Exhibition and the next year secured her first commission. By 1907, she had found ways to profitably combine her social standing and her art. That year, she put together an exhibit at the private, exclusive women's Colony Club—of which she was a founding member—that included antique lace, portraits of members, and contemporary American paintings by artists who were known to her, including Ernest Lawson, Blendon Campbell, Jerome Myers, Arthur B. Davies, and Bridget Guinness . She met these and other artists when she took a studio at 19 MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village. There, in that mecca for artists, Whitney worked alongside Malvina Hoffman , Lawson, and her old teacher, James Earle Fraser. To her continued disappointment, her family and society friends were only amusedly tolerant of her sculpting. Instead, it was the artists she met who responded to her seriousness and her dedication—as well as to her financial and emotional support of them.

Her second goal grew out of her understanding that the art being created around her was not greatly admired by most people. Whitney was especially fond of contemporary American realist painters, such as Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, and George Bellows, whose work would later be dubbed "the Ashcan School." In the early 1900s, serious collectors, including museums and exhibitors, shunned these artists, because their style and subject matter did not conform to what was being defined and taught as art in the European academies. Without a showcase, these painters could not make a living. Whitney's wealth and profound esteem for the work of her colleagues put her in a position to become a strong supporter of American art. She bought their canvases or sculptures, gave or loaned them money, paid their rent or medical bills, sent them abroad to study, and paid for their art supplies. She did this for many artists—male and female, European and American—and almost always in secret. Sometimes her support was longterm; sometimes it was only to see an artist through a lean period. According to her biographer B.H. Friedman, patronage became "for her a co-equal means of expressing creative energy." There was "not a contemporary artist of note in America who has not been helped by Mrs. Whitney," wrote art critic Henry McBride. Ultimately, she turned her own studio into an exhibition space for their art.

In 1914, Gertrude opened the Whitney Studio next to her MacDougal space. Until 1927, she held regular exhibitions of the work of such then-struggling artists as Sloan, Hoffman, Guy Péne du Bois, Florence Lucius, Grace Mott Johnson , Charles Demuth, Henry Schnakenberg, and Walt Kuhn. Some of the exhibitions were centered on themes, such as "To Whom Shall I Go for My Portrait?," which garnered a steady stream of upper-class patrons seeking portraitists like Childe Hassam, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Steichen. One of the most famous exhibitions held at the Whitney Studio was the two-part "Indigenous Show" in 1918. She invited 20 painters to spend three days in the studio and supplied them with canvases (the size was randomly assigned—so a muralist had to contend with a tiny canvas), paints, brushes, food, whiskey, and cigars. Sculptors were allowed five days and varying amounts of clay. The public wandered through enthralled with the opportunity to watch creative geniuses at work. In 1923, Whitney held the "Negro Sculpture" show which combined the work of African and African-American sculptors as well as 20 paintings by Pablo Picasso, to highlight the connections between African art and modernism.

She held many other exhibitions for charity. The first was the 1914 "50–50 Art Sale," in which the profits were split evenly between the artists and the American Hospital in Paris which was tending to the wounded soldiers of World War I. Another, held in 1915 to benefit the Fraternité des Artistes in France, featured the works of Auguste Rodin, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassatt , James McNeill Whistler, and Honoré Daumier. In 1918, the Whitney Studio held an exhibition of "Art by Children of the Greenwich House School." Whitney donated the proceeds to the settlement house and the child artists.

Her patronage extended beyond the art she collected, the artists she supported, and the exhibitions she held at the Whitney Studio. Whitney made up the deficit for John Sloan's Society of Independent Artists from 1917 through 1931. In 1923, she began to underwrite The Arts, a magazine devoted to the writings and work of contemporary, non-academic artists. She provided the funding for the defense of the Supreme Court case Brancusi v. the U.S., in which the United States argued that Brancusi's sculpture Bird in Space was not a sculpture at all, but rather a heap of raw materials subject, as such, to an import tax. In 1928, the Court found in favor of Brancusi. In order to spread the word about American art—and, in some cases, because the Whitney Studio was too small—Whitney organized exhibitions in other galleries in New York City, Boston, Baltimore, and Newport, as well as abroad. The 1920 "Overseas Exhibition" toured four European cities, representing the work of 32 contemporary American artists. She also aided other art institutions, among them the National Sculpture Society, the Art Centre, the National Academy of Design, the Madison Gallery, the Art Alliance of America, and the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects. She donated $1,000 for decorations to the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show. Whenever her exhibitions held competitions, she provided the purse.

Meanwhile, she sculpted. Whitney's own work was traditional, realistic, and often grand in scale. Many of her commissions memorialized events and people, such as the Titanic Memorial (Washington, D.C., 1914), Spirit of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Washington, D.C., 1917), Madison Square Victory Arch (New York City, 1919), Washington Heights War Memorial (New York City, 1921), Buffalo Bill (Cody, Wyoming, 1922), St. Nazaire Monument (St. Nazaire, France, 1924), Columbus Monument (Palos, Spain, 1928), and Peter Stuyvesant (New York City, 1936). If she accepted remuneration, she was criticized by members of memorial organizations who thought that she was wealthy enough to donate her art; if she worked for free, she was criticized by fellow artists who claimed she undercut the market. Though she did not always cash the checks, Whitney made certain that those who commissioned her also paid her. Her smaller statues, such as Paganisme Immortel (1907), won a distinguished rating from the National Academy of Design in 1910 and caused her to begin exhibiting under her own name rather than anonymously; though Chinoise (1913) and Salome (1933) brought her satisfaction and occasionally money, she was best known for her monuments.

In 1910, Whitney began spending substantial time in Paris, where she found a studio space at 72 Rue de Flandrin and studied with Andrew O'Connor. She had always loved France, and in 1914, when World War I began, she set out to help the beleaguered country. Establishing an American Field Hospital just behind the battle lines in Juilly, she paid for the supplies, recruited and paid the salaries of its personnel, and administered it for the first year. In 1917, Whitney contributed more than $15,000 a month to the hospital. For her service, she was decorated with a gold medal by the French government. Tending to the wounded and dying soldiers, Whitney was touched and inspired. When the war ended, the subject matter and the timbre of her sculpture reflected her experiences. Many had martial subjects: In the Trenches, Gassed, Victory, Honorably Discharged, and Refugees, for example. In part because of her war work, the St. Nazaire Association commissioned her to create a monument to the first troops of the American Expeditionary Force to land in France, at St. Nazaire. It towered 60 feet above the rocky shoreline of the town's harbor. She continued to create war memorials into the 1920s.

In 1918, Gertrude organized the Whitney Studio Club. Begun with a core of 20 member artists and situated at 147 West 4th Street (it would move in 1923 to 8th Street), the Whitney Studio Club included two exhibition halls, an art library, a billiard room, and a squash court. It held annual member exhibitions and frequent classes, and served as a comfortable meeting place for artists of many stripes. Needy artists lived upstairs. Critical to the Club's success was Juliana Force , a secretary turned right-hand woman. Force had worked with Whitney on and off since the Colony Club exhibition in 1907. By 1918, Force had professionalized the exhibitions at the Whitney Studio, and operated nearly autonomously when Whitney spent months abroad. The Whitney Studio Club became famous for Force's dinners and teas, where artists discussed art, politics, and each other. By 1928, the Club had held 86 exhibitions but carried an unwieldy membership of 400 artists and a waiting list of 400 more. Whitney and Force decided to disband. Said Force, in a New York Times interview, "The pioneering work for which the club was organized had been done; its aim has been successfully attained. Opportunities for showing work by young American artists have increased tremendously. The liberal arts have won the battle." In fact, by the end of the 1920s, Whitney had helped make American art acceptable to the public and to its traditional arbiters.

During the last two years of the Club's existence, the Studio Club Shop sold the work of member artists, without charging a commission. This made the artwork less expensive, thus encouraging collectors, while the artists—sans dealers—retained a larger profit. The Whitney Studio Club and Shop gave way to the Whitney Studio Galleries, which was run as a commercial gallery, with single and group shows by contemporary artists. After two years, Whitney discontinued the Studio Galleries because she had opened what would become her most lasting monument to American art, the Whitney Museum of American Art.

By the end of the decade, she had acquired over 600 works in her personal art collection, and most of those languished in storage, unseen. Debating whether to add a wing to one of her houses or to give the collection away, Whitney and Force decided upon the latter course. To that end, Whitney sent Force to discuss the donation of her art collection, along with a $5 million endowment, to the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The director cut Force off mid-proposal, saying, "What will we do with them, my dear lady? We have a cellar of those things already." Angrily, Force related the tale to Whitney who decided, on the spot, to create her own museum with her personal collection of "those things." Force was made director.

The Whitney Museum of American Art was born in the midst of the Great Depression, on November 18, 1931, with 4,000 in attendance. Harry Payne Whitney had died on October 26, 1930, while the planning was underway. He left an estate of $71 million. Most of this went to their children, but Gertrude had broad discretionary powers over the remainder. Some of his money and more of hers provided a solid financial base for the enterprise. Whitney's ongoing support of the museum included annual contributions of $160,000, a gift of $100,000 in 1935, and another gift of stocks valued at $790,000 in 1937. She would also donate $2.5 million to the museum in her will.

One unpublicized goal of Whitney's was to grant women artists the social and artistic sanction that generally eluded them. Born before the women's rights movement, she was acutely aware of the roles society prescribed for women and lamented the difficulties that women artists faced. In addition to the usual problems of finances, locating exhibition space, and securing commissions, women painters and sculptors suffered from public censure as they departed from their traditional roles of daughter, wife, and mother. In the early 20th century, it was not "nice" for middle- and upper-class women to have a career, to work in their own studios, to associate with the bohemians in Greenwich Village, to make money, to publicly display their work, or to compete with men. No other collector of her era bought or exhibited more work by women.

Force, Juliana (1876–1948)

American art museum administrator who was the first director of the Whitney Museum of American Art . Born Juliana Reiser (later changed name to Rieser) on December 25, 1876, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania; died in New York City on August 28, 1948; educated in local schools; married Dr. Willard B. Force.

After heading a secretarial school in New York City, Juliana Force signed on as secretary to Helen Hay Whitney before she was asked to assist Helen's sister-in-law, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney , with a novel Gertrude had written. Before long the book was forgotten, and Force was helping out at the Whitney Studio. When the Whitney Museum of American Art opened in 1930, Force was named director. She introduced a series of monographs on contemporary American artists, organized a series of morning and evening lectures, and energetically ran the Whitney until her death 18 years later. From 1933 to 1934, she also was regional director of the federal Public Works Art project. In her book Off with Their Heads, writerartist Peggy Bacon described Force: "Dependably indiscreet, brutally witty, she talks effectively, constantly, sparing no feelings, letting people know exactly where they stand…. Hand some auburn chevelure, cream-colored skin, and small menacing eyes that miss nothing. Nose of Cyrano de Bergerac, mouth like a circumflex accent. Figure erect, trim, magnetic, packed with audacity and challenge."


Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1941.

Whitney felt that she struggled against a double burden: being a woman and being wealthy. In an interview with The New York Times in 1919, she asserted: "[L]et a woman who does not have to work for her livelihood take a studio to do the work in which she is most intensely interested and she is greeted by a chorus of horror-stricken voices, a knowing lifting of the eyebrows, or a twist of the mouth that is equally expressive. And much more condemnatory." In the same article, she confessed her frustration upon receiving criticism from people who "could not understand how a woman [her] size could build up a statue of that height." While she was never clear about whether being rich or being a woman was more of a handicap, she ultimately capitalized on the first and ignored the second. Perhaps as a measure of how far she had come, upon her death in 1942, the Times obituary was headed: "Mrs. H.P. Whitney, Sculptor, Is Dead." "Sculptor" instead of "socialite" spoke volumes about the success of her battle. Writ large, that success was shared by the women artists whose work she hung in the Whitney Museum of American Art. (The fact that she was still called "Mrs. H.P. Whitney," however, spoke volumes about how far woman artists still had to go.)

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney devoted her later life to consolidating her financial empire, overseeing her large and increasingly troubled family (including the messy, tabloid custody case for her niece, Gloria Vanderbilt ), conserving her strength as her health failed, steering the Whitney Museum, and continuing to sculpt. Her last public sculptures were monuments of Peter Stuyvesant for Stuyvesant Square and Spirit of Flight for the 1939 World's Fair. In 1932, after a lifetime of writing diaries, travel journals, short stories, novellas, and plays, she published a novel under the pseudonym L.J. Webb, Walking the Dusk (Coward-McCann). In the depths of the Great Depression, it was not a great seller, but it did represent one success in the other main creative outlet in Whitney's life. From then on, she strove to professionalize her writing, taking a writing class and consulting with well-known authors. None of her other writings were ever published.

Although Whitney was a realist sculptor of merit who overcame familial animosity, public disbelief, and the limited expectations for her gender to create sculptures acclaimed around the globe, her greatest legacy was the Whitney Museum of American Art, the first museum anywhere to showcase artists from the United States. Behind that was the equally remarkable feat of making American art acceptable, even chic. As Whitney began sculpting, the members of the Ashcan School were unknowns. By the end of the 1920s, collectors were paying thousands of dollars for their paintings. The same could be said for most of the other artists whom she assisted, either directly—financially or through exhibitions at the Whitney Studio or Galleries—or indirectly, as a consequence of the rising status of American art. Whitney did not labor alone. Other artists and patrons assisted, such as Steichen and Stieglitz, but she was the true promoter of American realism. The fame of many of the 400 members of the Whitney Studio Club attests to her talent for discovering good art, promoting American art, and succoring the artist. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney put American art on the map.


Berman, Avis. "The Force Behind the Whitney," in American Heritage. September–October 1989, pps. 102–113.

——. Rebels on Eighth Street: Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art. NY: Atheneum, 1990.

Friedman, B.H. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978.

"Hail and Farewell! Why the Whitney Studio Club Disbands," in The New York Times. September 23, 1928, p. 11.

Jewell, Edward Alden. "The Whitney Museum of American Art Opens This Week," in The New York Times. November 15, 1931, p. 14.

McCarthy, Kathleen D. Women's Culture: American Philanthropy and Art, 1830–1930. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

"Memorial Unveiled to First Americans Landing in France: Heroic Statue and St. Nazaire Celebration Revive Much of War's Idealism," in The New York Times. June 27, 1926, p. 1.

"Mrs. H.P. Whitney, Sculptor, Is Dead," in The New York Times. April 18, 1942, p. 16.

"Mrs. Whitney Left Fortune To Public," in The New York Times. May 5, 1942, p. 23.

"Mrs. Whitney on War Hospital," in The New York Times. March 28, 1915, section 5, p. 7.

"Poor Little Rich Girl and Her Art," in The New York Times Magazine. November 9, 1919, section 4, p. 7.

Tarbell, Roberta K. "Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney as Patron," in The Figurative Tradition and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Patricia Hills and Roberta K. Tarbell, eds. Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 1980.

suggested reading:

Biddle, Flora Miller. The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made: A Family Chronicle. NY: Arcade, 2000.


Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's personal papers are held at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Stacy A. Cordery , Associate Professor of History, Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois

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Whitney, Gertrude Vanderbilt (1875–1942)

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