Art Students League of New York

Art Students League of New York
Fine Arts Building on West 57th, May, 2009

The Art Students League of New York is an art school located on West 57th Street in New York City. The League has historically been known for its broad appeal to both amateurs and professional artists, and has maintained for over 130 years 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 a quarterly journal of writing on art-related topics, which is 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.[1]



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.[2]

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.[3] 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 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 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 vital 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.[4]

Other facilities

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.[5] 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.[6]

Notable instructors and lecturers

Since its inception, the Art Students League has employed renowned 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, Peter Golfinopoulos (over 40 years), Knox Martin (over 37 years), and the sculptors William Zorach (30 years), and Jose De Creeft, American impressionist William Merritt Chase (over 20 years), and Robert Brackman (19 years), and Will Barnet (50 years) from the 1930s to the 1990s.

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, Robert Brackman, George Bridgman, Alexander Stirling Calder, William Merritt Chase, Timothy J. Clark, Kenyon Cox, Jose De Creeft, John Steuart Curry, Stuart Davis, Edwin Dickinson, Frederick Dielman, Harvey Dinnerstein, Arthur Wesley Dow, Frank DuMond, Frank Duveneck, Thomas Eakins, Daniel Chester French, Michael Goldberg, Stephen Greene, George Grosz, Philip Guston, Robert Beverly Hale, Lovell Birge Harrison, Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, Eva Hesse, Charles Hinman, Hans Hofmann, Jamal Igle, Wolf Kahn, Morris Kantor, Rockwell Kent, Walt Kuhn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Gabriel Laderman, Ronnie Landfield, Jacob Lawrence, Hayley Lever, George Luks, Paul Manship, Reginald Marsh, Knox Martin, Mary Beth Mckenzie, Willard Metcalf, Kenneth Hayes Miller, F. Luis Mora, Robert Neffson, Maxfield Parrish, Jules Pascin, Richard C. Pionk, Larry Poons, Richard Pousette-Dart, Abraham Rattner, Peter Reginato, Frank J. Reilly, Henry Reuterdahl, Boardman Robinson, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Walter Shirlaw, John Sloan, Hughie Lee-Smith, Isaac Soyer, Raphael Soyer, Theodoros Stamos, Harry Sternberg, Augustus Vincent Tack, George Tooker, John Henry Twachtman, Vaclav Vytlacil, Max Weber, J. Alden Weir, and William Zorach.[7]

Notable alumni

The school's list of renowned alumni includes: Edwin Tappan Adney, Ai Weiwei, William Anthony, Milton Avery, United States Congressman Thomas R. Ball, Will Barnet, Romare Bearden, Brother Thomas Bezanson, Thomas Hart Benton, Isabel Bishop, Leonard Bocour, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Stanley Boxer, D. Putnam Brinley, James Brooks, Peter Busa, Paul Cadmus, Alexander Calder, John F. Carlson, Claudette Colbert, Willie Cole, John Connell, Allyn Cox, Mel Cummin, Frederick Stuart Church, Andrew Dasburg, Dorothy Dehner, Burgoyne Diller, Sir Jacob Epstein, Marisol Escobar, Philip Evergood, Ernest Fiene, Louis Finkelstein, Helen Frankenthaler, Frederick Carl Frieseke, Dan Gheno, Charles Dana Gibson, William Glackens, Elias Goldberg, Michael Goldberg, Peter Golfinopoulos, Adolph Gottlieb, John D. Graham, Nancy Graves, Clement Greenberg, Red Grooms, Chaim Gross,Bessie Pease Gutmann, Al Held, Marsden Hartley, Ethel Hays, Gus Heinze, Al Held, Eva Hesse, Al Hirschfeld, Winslow Homer, Paul Jenkins, Donald Judd, Belle Kogan, Lee Krasner, Ronnie Landfield, Michael Lekakis, Alfred Leslie, Roy Lichtenstein, Michael Loew, John Marin, Reginald Marsh, Knox Martin, Mercedes Matter, Louisa Matthiasdottir, Peter Max, Eleanore Mikus, F. Luis Mora, Walter Tandy Murch, Reuben Nakian, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Georgia O'Keeffe, Tom Otterness, Betty Parsons, Phillip Pavia, Roger Tory Peterson, Bert Geer Phillips, I. Rice Pereira, Jackson Pollock, Fairfield Porter, Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray, Frederic Remington, Norman Rockwell, Louise Emerson Ronnebeck, Herman Rose, Leonard Rosenfeld, James Rosenquist, Mark Rothko, Morgan Russell, Louis Schanker, Mary Schepisi, Ethel Schwabacher, Maurice Sendak, Ben Shahn, Nat Mayer Shapiro, Henrietta Shore, Jessamine Shumate, David Smith, Tony Smith, Robert Smithson, Otto Stark, Frank Stella, Joseph Stella, Harry Sternberg, Clyfford Still, George Tooker, Cy Twombly, Jack Tworkov, Edward Charles Volkert, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Adolph Alexander Weinman, Stow Wengenroth, Gahan Wilson, and Russel Wright.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Linea online, retrieved October 17, 2008
  2. ^ The New York Times, "Critic's Notebook: A School's Colorful Patina", by Holland Cotter,Published September 9, 2005
  3. ^ The New York Times, "Streetscapes: Art Students League at 215 West 57th Street; An 1892 Limestone-Fronted Building That Endures" by Christopher Gray, Published October 5, 2003
  4. ^ History, retrieved online October 17, 2008
  5. ^ Woodstock, New York#Woodstock Music and Art
  6. ^ Vytlacil Campus, retrieved online October 17, 2008
  7. ^ Instructors past and present, retrieved October 17, 2008
  8. ^ Notable Alumni, retrieved online, October 17, 2008

External links

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