History of the Building
The School occupies eight historic buildings with an extraordinary cultural and artistic history. Occupied by various artists, and the original home of the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1931 to 1954, the School's physical home has been a place where art has been created, discussed and displayed for over a century.
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney first took over part of the current structure, the stable studio at 19 MacDougal Alley, in 1907, and over the years purchased the four townhouses and four stables that make up the current School, becoming sole owner of all eight buildings in 1930.
Together with Juliana Force, it was in these buildings that Whitney established the Whitney Studio galleries and the Whitney Studio Club. Durign their history, the Whitney Studio and Studio Club hosted a number of important exhibitions including John Sloan's first one-man show in 1916 and Edward Hopper's first one-man show in 1920. It also provided exhibition space for other artists, including Stuart Davis, Joseph Stella and William Glackens, as well as shows of Cubist and Dadaist works from Europe.
In 1929, the Whitney Museum of American Art was created, and the eight buildings were extensively remodeled to include more public exhibition space. The private rooms that remained included the magnificent Whitney Studio, the site of Whitney's original sculpture studio, which in 1918 was completely remodeled by the creation of a fantastic piece of painted bas-relief by the artist Robert Winthrop Chanler. This sculptural masterpiece spreads from the fireplace up across the ceiling in an explosion of molded plaster flames and delicately modeled creatures from myth and nature. This room remains in use for critiques and seminars by today's students. In 1992 the buildings were designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service and were recently selected for the 2012 World Monuments Watch.
In the forty five years that the School has been on West 8th Street, artists and students alike have found both inspiration and comfort in continuing the tradition of drawing, painting and sculpting in the historic spaces that have played such an important role in the history of art in America. The large skylit rooms and historic private studios allow students to practice their art in dedicated spaces that beautifully accommodate their needs. As a reminder of the legacy of Mrs. Whitney, one of her sculptures remains in the School's courtyard - a touchstone between the past and present of these fascinating and unique buildings.