One of the world's leading art schools, the Art Students League of New York also hosts exhibitions of art that are open to the public both in its landmark building in Manhattan and elsewhere.
The Art Students League was founded in 1875 by a group of artists many of whom were students at the National Academy of Design. The students were concerned that financial difficulties might lead to the closure of the Academy and thus leave them without a place in which to develop their art. Perhaps more importantly, the students were concerned that the Academy's curriculum was too narrow and conservative. The students agreed to hold their own classes in rented space at Fifth Avenue and 16th Street.
By 1878, the classes had proved so popular that it was decided to create a formal entity and obtain a charter from the State of New York. This entity would be run by a board of control in which at least three of the members would be students.
The Art Students League of New York would be different than the typical art school. There would be no set curriculum, no grades and no degrees. Instead, the classes would be conducted similar to the French atelier system in studios in which the instructor was free to teach as he or she wished. Under this system, the students were able to focus on art without having to worry about academic requirements or about adhering to any particular style.
The growing popularity of the League led to its banding together with a number of other art organizations including the American Fine Arts Society, to build a new home. Architect Henry J. Hardenbergh, designer of the Plaza Hotel, was hired and a site found on West 57th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue. The building, which is now a National Historic Landmark, was completed in 1892.
The League's reputation grew in the last part of the 19th century with artists such as J. Alden Weir, John H. Twachtman. Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase and Thomas Eakins acting as instructors. Despite the coming of Modernism in the 20th century, the League continued to grow in reputation largely due to the fact that it was not wedded to a particular style of art. Students could pursue abstraction, realism, or a combination of both. The choice was up to the student. Instructors during this period included George Bridgman, Robert Beverly Hale, Reginal Marsh, Thomas Hart Benton, and Will Barnet.
The list of artists who attended the League is no less impressive and includes names such as Winslow Homer, Wiilam Glackens, Charles Dana Gibson, Frederic Remington, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Louise Bourgeois, Mark Rothko, Al Hirshfeld, Tony Smith, Man Ray and Louise Nevelson.
Naturally, with so many great artists having been instructors and/or students at the League, it has built up an impressive permanent collection over the years. The collection includes works by people such as Georgia O'Keefe, Reginald Marsh, William Merritt Chase, Norman Rockwell, Alexander Calder and many more. Unfortunately, there is not sufficient space in the League's building to have the collection on permanent display.
The League building, however, does have two galleries, which are used for exhibitions, the American Fine Arts Society Gallery and the Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery. The exhibition program changes over time and includes not only exhibitions drawn from the permanent collection but also exhibitions of works by instructors and by students. The League also has an outreach program in which works by League artists are exhibited at other locations. There is also a program of virtual exhibitions.
For information about visiting, seee the Art Students League's website.
Above: The main entrance. Due the construction of a high-rise residential building nearby, the League's historic building is protected by scaffolding).
Below: The Phyllis Harriman Mason Gallery.
Places to see art - - New York City - - Art Students League of New York