Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney: Artist, Patron, Collector

Born a Vanderbilt and marrying into the wealthy Whitney family, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was an unusual upper crust matron. She was an artist. Her family and husband did not support her artistic ambitions, but Gertrude persisted, establishing studios in both New York and Paris and, by 1910, began showing her work under her own name. Her sculptures won several awards and were accepted at the Paris Salon of 1911. After the end of World War I, she focused on public memorials, many of which can still be seen across the United States.

Gertrude's wealth also allowed her to become a patron of the arts, and she was particularly keen to support fellow female artists. She used her influence to ensure that other women were included in group exhibitions and supported female-only shows. Among other things, in 1914, she established a club in New York where young artists could gather and chat, also providing housing stipends to help working artists make ends meet.

Gertrude also helped establish American art as, well, art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art declined her offer to donate her collection of almost 700 works of modern American art, because at the time, they did not accept works from the United States. So Gertrude decided to build her own museum. In 1931 she established the Whitney Museum, and she appointed a woman as its first director. The museum’s embracing of modernism was a huge institutional shift in the United States; it helped push American art from being seen as provincial and inferior to European art, to being unique and desirable in its own right.

High-Speed Wind Tunnel, and One of Its Technicians

Photograph taken in 1943, at the Langley Research Center in Virginia.

Four of the American founding fathers married widows: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin. Interestingly, none had sons with their wives.


"Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death."

Benjamin Franklin, on how he made friends with a rival legislator in the Pennsylvania statehouse.

This is a real psychological phenomenon. Humans tend to value more people whom they have helped -- and conversely, devalue more people whom they have wronged. It seems that we like to be consistent, and so justify our actions after-the-fact by telling ourselves we like that person we helped, or we do not like that person we wronged.

A head in the Ecuadorian Chorrera art style. Circa 300 BCE to 600 CE. This was a time of social, political, economic, and artistic innovations in the region, prompted by agricultural improvements and a growing population. New settlements and towns, with ever-larger numbers of inhabitants, triggered the need for methods to manage village life and ensure the well-being of the community, which, in turn, led to greater social hierarchy. Hand-in-hand with the growing social complexity was the appearance of more complex religious practices. Both developments encouraged the desire for novel artworks to express the new sociopolitical and spiritual ideologies that characterize this dynamic time throughout ancient Ecuador.

The earlier Valdivia figurine tradition developed into an elaborate figural art form with such novel artistic expressions as the elegant, mold-made sculptures of the Jama Coaque and La Tolita styles of Ecuador's northwestern coastal region. This particular figure likely is an example of La Tolita style, which is differentiated by its heightened naturalism.

When it was built in 1897, the US Library of Congress was the largest and the most expensive library building in the world.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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