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Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney



Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, socialite and member of the fabulous Vanderbilt family, was the first collector to be interested in American art, a category completely marginalized at the time. Her commitment to fellow artists such as John Sloan, Edward Hopper, Peggy Bacon and Georgia O'Keeffe, now considered as American masters - thus laid the foundations for an impressive collection leading to the creation of the Whitney Museum in 1931. MyStudiolo traces the life of this rebellious philanthropist who became a notable sculptor in :

6 key dates 4 artworks 3 anecdotes 1 quote

1900 After marrying trader Harry Payne Whitney, Gertrude struggles to fulfill her role as a woman of high society, upsetting her true nature and artistic soul. Under the guise of a pseudonym, she learned about the art of marble sculpture. During her discovery of the artistic life of Montmartre and Montparnasse in Paris, she was encouraged in her work as a sculptor by Auguste Rodin, who was then her teacher.

1907 She set up her studio in the Greenwhich Village in New York and, ignoring the mockery of her relatives, she gave herself two goals: to become a sculptor and to support artists in need. While all eyes were on European art, Gertrude particularly liked the American realist painters (later forming the Ashcan School). She is able to give them a showcase and then becomes a staunch supporter of American art - and almost always in secret.

1913 Guided by her advisor Juliana Force, Gertrude has accumulated nearly 700 works of American art. Having become a highly respected collector, her collection received support from the Armory Show that year. His personal collection will also constitute the initial basis of his future museum. It included paintings by Maurice Prendergast, John Sloan, George Wesley Bellows, Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton, Stuart Davis and many others.

1914 Like Peggy Guggenheim, Gertrude is a true patron: she uses her considerable fortune to help and encourage American artists. She founded the Whitney Studio Club where artists can come together to speak, critique and present exhibitions to the general public. Moreover, the most precarious live upstairs. Thanks to Juliana Force, the Club has become more professional and famous. It is from this very place that the Whitney Museum of American Art was born.

1930 During the last two years of the club's existence, the Whitney Studio sold the works of its artists without receiving a commission, thus making the work less expensive. This made it possible to encourage collectors and derive more benefits from it for artists. The club has finally given way to the most enduring institution of American art: the Whitney Museum of American Art. The museum opened in November 1931.

1932 Gertrude establishes the Whitney Biennial, an invitational event dedicated to works created over the previous two years by new painters, sculptors and contemporary American artists. She has also ensured that women are always included in her group shows and has curated several women's shows throughout her life. Gertrude was president of the museum until her death in 1942.


Edward Hopper, Early sunday morging, 1930

Charles Demuth, Buildings, Lancaster, 1930

Marsden Hartley, Painting n°5, 1914

Georgia O'Keeffe, Summer days, 1936



  • A 1916 portrait by the painter Robert Henri, which hangs in the new Whitney building, shows her lounging on a couch, wearing a silky tunic and a pair of loose blue pantaloons. At the time, it was highly unusual to see a woman of her class and status wearing pants — and her husband, Harry Payne Whitney, refused to hang the portrait in their Fifth Avenue townhouse.

  • In 1929, believing that American modernists deserved greater recognition, she offered to donate her entire collection of American artists to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Director at the time had a very conservative approach to the collection and turned the donation down.

  • In 1892, Gertrude's fortune made it possible to launch the fashion magazine Vogue. A first photo of her taken by Baron de Meyer - the first fashion photographer - was published in the magazine in 1913.


" Art is an ascending or descending scale, the spirit of tis joys reaches us in unexpected ways. It travels on slender threads but it is pitching the grass of all who care enough to want to see and understand. "

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Explore the exhibition The Whitney's Collection : a selection from 1900 to 1965

Discover the fabulous neoclassical art studio of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

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