The Art Students League of New York is an art school located on West 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City, New York. The League has historically been known for its broad appeal to both amateurs and professional artists and for over 130 years has maintained a tradition of offering reasonably priced classes on a flexible schedule to accommodate students from all walks of life.
Although artists may study full-time, there have never been any degree programs or grades, and this informal attitude pervades the culture of the school. From the 19th century to the present, the League has counted among its attendees and instructors many historically important artists, and contributed to numerous influential schools and movements in the art world.
The League also maintains a significant permanent collection of student and faculty work, and publishes an online journal of writing on art-related topics, entitled LINEA. The journal's name refers to the school's motto Nulla Dies Sine Linea or "No Day Without a Line," traditionally attributed to the famous Greek painter Apelles by the historian Pliny the Elder, who recorded that Apelles would not let a day pass without at least drawing a line to practice his art.
Founded in 1875, the League's creation came about in response to both an anticipated gap in the program of the National Academy of Design's program of classes for that year, and longer-term desires for more variety and flexibility in education for artists. The breakaway group of students included many women, and was originally housed in rented rooms at 16th Street and Fifth Avenue.
When the Academy resumed a more typical, but liberalized, program, in 1877, there was some sentiment that the League had served its purpose, but its students voted to continue its program, and it was incorporated in 1878. Influential board members from this formative period included painter Thomas Eakins and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Membership continued to increase, forcing the League to relocate to increasingly larger spaces.
In 1889, the League participated in the founding of the American Fine Arts Society (AFAS), together with the Society of American Artists and the Architectural League, among others. The American Fine Arts Building at 215 West 57th Street, constructed as their joint headquarters, has continued to house the League since 1892. Designed in the French Renaissance style by one of the founders of the AFAS, architect Henry Hardenbergh (in collaboration with W.C. Hunting & J.C. Jacobsen), the building is a designated New York City Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the late 1890s and early 1900s an increasing number of women artists came to study and work at the league many of them taking on key roles. Among them was a young Miss Wilhelmina Weber Furlong and eventually her husband Thomas Furlong (artist). The avant-garde couple served the league in executive and administrative roles and as student members throughout the American modernism movement. Alice Van Vechten Brown, who would later develop some of the first art programs in American higher education, also studied with the league until prolonged family illness sent her home.
Artist Edith Dimock described her classes at the Art Students League:
In a room innocent of ventilation, the job was to draw Venus (just the head) and her colleagues. We were not allowed to hitch bodies to the heads——yet. The dead white plaster of Paris was a perfect inducer of eye-strain, and was called "The Antique." One was supposed to work from "The Antique" for two years. The advantage of "The Antique" was that all these gods and athletes were such excellent models: there never was the twitch of an iron-bound muscle. Venus never batted her hard-boiled egg eye, and the Discus-thrower never wearied. They were also cheap models and did not have to be paid union rates.— Edith Dimock
In his official biography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, Norman Rockwell recounts his time studying at the school as a young man, providing insight into its operation in the early 1900s.
The League's popularity persisted into the 1920s and 1930s under the hand of instructors like painter Thomas Hart Benton, who counted among his students there the young Jackson Pollock and other avant-garde artists who would rise to prominence in the 1940s.
In the years after World War II, the G.I. Bill played an important role in the continuing history of the League by enabling returning veterans to attend classes. The League continued to be a formative influence on innovative artists, being an early stop in the careers of Abstract expressionists, Pop Artists and scores of others including Lee Bontecou, Helen Frankenthaler, Al Held, Eva Hesse, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd, Knox Martin, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Cy Twombly and many others vitally active in the art world.
The League's unique importance in the larger art world dwindled somewhat during the 1960s, partially because of higher academia's emergence as an important presence in contemporary art education, and partially due to a shift in the art world towards minimalism, photography, conceptual art, and a more impersonal and indirect approach to art making.
As of 2010, the League remains an important part of New York City art life. The League continues to attract a wide variety of young artists; and the focus on art made by hand, both figurative and abstract, remains strong; its continued significance has largely been in the continuation of its original mission - to give access to art classes and studio access to all comers, regardless of their financial ability or technical background.
From 1906 until 1922, and again after the end of World War II from 1947 until 1979, the League operated a summer school of painting at Woodstock, New York. In 1995, the League's facilities expanded to include the Vytlacil campus in Sparkill, New York, named after and based upon a gift of the property and studio of former instructor Vaclav Vytlacil.
Since its inception, the Art Students League has employed notable professional artists as instructors and lecturers. Most engagements have been for a year or two, and some, like those of sculptor George Grey Barnard, were quite brief.
Others have taught for decades, notably Frank DuMond and George Bridgman, who taught anatomy for artists and life drawing classes for some 45 years, reportedly to 70,000 students. Bridgman's successor was Robert Beverly Hale. Other longtime instructors included the painters Frank Mason (DuMond's successor, over 50 years), Kenneth Hayes Miller (forty years) from 1911 until 1951, sculptor Nathaniel Kaz (50 years), Peter Golfinopoulos (over 40 years), Knox Martin (over 45 years), Martha Bloom (30 years) and the sculptors William Zorach (30 years), and Jose De Creeft, American impressionist William Merritt Chase (over 20 years), Will Barnet (50 years) from the 1930s to the 1990s, and Bruce Dorfman (over 50 years).
Other well-known artists who have served as instructors here include Lawrence Alloway, Charles Alston, Will Barnet, Robert Beauchamp, George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Isabel Bishop, Arnold Blanch, Louis Bouche, Robert Brackman, George Bridgman, Alexander Stirling Calder, Naomi Andrée Campbell, Robert Cenedella, William Merritt Chase, Dionisio Cimarelli, Timothy J. Clark, Kenyon Cox, Jose De Creeft, John Steuart Curry, Stuart Davis, Edwin Dickinson, Sidney Dickinson, Frederick Dielman, Harvey Dinnerstein, Arthur Wesley Dow, Frank DuMond, Frank Duveneck, Thomas Eakins, Daniel Chester French, Dagmar Freuchen, Wilhelmina Weber Furlong, Michael Goldberg, Stephen Greene, George Grosz, Lena Gurr, Philip Guston, Robert Beverly Hale, Lovell Birge Harrison, Ernest Haskell, Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, Eva Hesse, Charles Hinman, Hans Hofmann, Harry Holtzman, Jamal Igle, Burt Johnson, Wolf Kahn, Morris Kantor, Rockwell Kent, Walt Kuhn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Gabriel Laderman, Ronnie Landfield, Jacob Lawrence, Hayley Lever, Martin Lewis, George Luks, Paul Manship, Reginald Marsh, Fletcher Martin, Knox Martin, Jan Matulka, Mary Beth Mckenzie, William Charles McNulty, Willard Metcalf, Kenneth Hayes Miller, F. Luis Mora, Robert Neffson, Kimon Nicolaïdes, Maxfield Parrish, Jules Pascin, Joseph Pennell, Richard C. Pionk, Larry Poons, Richard Pousette-Dart, Abraham Rattner, Peter Reginato, Frank J. Reilly, Henry Reuterdahl, Boardman Robinson, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Kikuo Saito, Nelson Shanks, William Scharf, Susan Louise Shatter, Walter Shirlaw, John Sloan, Hughie Lee-Smith, Isaac Soyer, Raphael Soyer, Theodoros Stamos, Anita Steckel, Harry Sternberg, Augustus Vincent Tack, George Tooker, John Henry Twachtman, Vaclav Vytlacil, Max Weber, J. Alden Weir, and William Zorach.
The school's list of notable alumni includes: Edwin Tappan Adney, Karin von Aroldingen, Ai Weiwei, Gladys Aller, William Anthony, Nela Arias-Misson, Milton Avery, Elizabeth Gowdy Baker, United States Congressman Thomas R. Ball, Hugo Ballin, Will Barnet, Nancy Hemenway Barton, Saul Bass, C. C. Beall, Romare Bearden, Brother Thomas Bezanson, Thomas Hart Benton, Isabel Bishop, Dorothy Block, Leonard Bocour, Harriet Bogart, Abraham Bogdanove, Lee Bontecou, Henry Botkin, Louise Bourgeois, Stanley Boxer, Louise Brann, D. Putnam Brinley, James Brooks, Carmen L. Browne, Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Feliza Bursztyn, Theodore Earl Butler, Paul Cadmus, Alexander Calder, Chris Campbell, John F. Carlson, Kathrin Cawein, Paul Chalfin, Ching Ho Cheng, Margaret Covey Chisholm, Kate Freeman Clark, Henry Ives Cobb, Jr., Claudette Colbert, Willie Cole, John Connell, Allyn Cox, Ellis Credle, Richard V. Culter, Mel Cummin, Frederick Stuart Church, Joan Danziger, Andrew Dasburg, Adolf Dehn, Dorothy Dehner, Sidney Dickinson, Burgoyne Diller, Ellen Eagle, Marjorie Eaton, Sir Jacob Epstein, Marisol Escobar, Joe Eula, Philip Evergood, Peter Falk, Ernest Fiene, Irving Fierstein, Louis Finkelstein, Wilhelmina Weber Furlong, Helen Frankenthaler, Frederick Carl Frieseke, Wanda Gág, Dan Gheno, Charles Dana Gibson, William Glackens, Elias Goldberg, Michael Goldberg, Shirley Goldfarb, Peter Golfinopoulos, Adolph Gottlieb, Blanche Grambs, John D. Graham, Enrique Grau, Nancy Graves, Clement Greenberg, Stephen Greene, Red Grooms, Chaim Gross, Lena Gurr, Bessie Pease Gutmann, Minna Harkavy, Marsden Hartley, Julius Hatofsky, Ethel Hays, Gus Heinze, Al Held, Carmen Herrera, Eva Hesse, Al Hirschfeld, Itshak Holtz, Lorenzo Homar, Winslow Homer, Thomas Hoving, Paul Jenkins, Alice Sargent Johnson, Burt Johnson, Donald Judd, Torleif S. Knaphus, Belle Kogan, Lee Krasner, Ronnie Landfield, Adelaide Lawson, Arthur Lee, Alfred Leslie, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Loepp, Michael Loew, John Marin, Reginald Marsh, Knox Martin, Donald Martiny, Mercedes Matter, Louisa Matthiasdottir, Peter Max, John Alan Maxwell, Eleanore Mikus, Emil Milan, Lee Miller, F. Luis Mora, Walter Tandy Murch, Reuben Nakian, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Sassona Norton, Elizabeth Nottingham, Georgia O'Keeffe, Roselle Osk, Lyn Ott, Tom Otterness, Clara Weaver Parrish, Betty Parsons, Phillip Pavia, Roger Tory Peterson, Bert Geer Phillips, I. Rice Pereira, Alain J. Picard, Jackson Pollock, Fairfield Porter, Edith Mitchill Prellwitz, Henry Prellwitz, Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray, Charles M. Relyea, Frederic Remington, Priscilla Roberts, Norman Rockwell, Louise Emerson Ronnebeck, Jacques Rosas, Herman Rose, Leonard Rosenfeld, James Rosenquist, Sanford Ross, Mark Rothko, Glen Rounds, Morgan Russell, Abbey Ryan, Sam Savitt, Louis Schanker, Mary Schepisi, Katherine Schmidt, Emily Maria Scott, Ethel Schwabacher, Joan Semmel, Maurice Sendak, Ben Shahn, Nelson Shanks, Nat Mayer Shapiro, Henrietta Shore, Jessamine Shumate, David Smith, Tony Smith, Robert Smithson, Louise Hammond Willis Snead, Armstrong Sperry, Otto Stark, William Starkweather, Frank Stella, Joseph Stella, Inga Stephens Pratt Clark, Harry Sternberg, Clyfford Still, Soichi Sunami, Katharine Lamb Tait, Patty Prather Thum, George Tooker, Kim Tschang-yeul, Wen-Ying Tsai, Cy Twombly, Jack Tworkov, Edward Charles Volkert, Alonzo C. Webb, Davyd Whaley, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Adolph Alexander Weinman, J. Alden Weir, Stow Wengenroth, Pennerton West, Anita Willets-Burnham, Ellen Axson Wilson, Gahan Wilson, Alice Morgan Wright, Russel Wright, Art Young, Philip Zuchman, and Iván Zulueta.
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