Art societies in NYC

Since people seemed taken with the beautiful building housing the National Arts Club today on Gramercy Park South, I thought I might mention some other important art societies in New York– these for artists, not just art collectors and enthusiasts (like the National Arts Club), in New York: the National Academy of Design, and the Art Students League.

The National Academy of Design (NAD) was the arbiter of artistic expression in the United States through the early 20th century. NAD promoted the “academic” tradition in Europe, which during the nineteenth century favored history painting above all others. For a time, the NAD was located just around the corner from Madison Square Park, which we visited today. It’s now located at 5th Avenue and 89th St.

Home of NAD from 1863-1865. located near Madison Square.

Home of NAD from 1863-1865, near Madison Square.

The other art society that might be of interest to some of you, especially those working in the 20th century, is the Art Students League. Pretty much anyone who was anyone in 20c American art either taught or trained at (and probably lived at) the Art Students League, which for much of its existence has been at West 57th St., where it continues to exist today. The Art Students League was friendly to radical politics and artistic experimentation, and functioned as a sort of incubator for many 20c art movements, including those affiliated with (dare I say it?) modernism(s).

Art Students League building on West 57th St. Photo by Jim Henderson.

Art Students League building on West 57th St. Photo by Jim Henderson.

Locations & pics have been posted to Historypin, but I thought I should mention these organizations on the blog since they provide useful context for today’s tour, and I don’t see them included on any of the other walking tours planned for CoP. These organizations contrast with the National Arts Club because they included artists, not just patrons– though the NAD also included many patrons, including, I would assume, many if not all of the members of the National Arts Club. Janice may be able to expand on this last point.

It should be noted that the Art Students League was not the only art school operating in the U.S. during the 19th century. The Art Institute of Chicago– whose curriculum was based on the academic painting tradition– trained many of the artists and illustrators who appeared in New York periodicals in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, as did art schools in Cleveland, San Francisco, and elsewhere. Sloan and Glackens took instruction at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), where Thomas Eakins–advocating his brand of realism-observed-from-life rather than the academic tradition, which had students drawing and painting from plaster casts– briefly taught in the late-1880s or early 1890s.


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