MID092-01a.jpg (24423 bytes) New York Architecture Images- Midtown

Art Students’ League




215 West 57th Street, Bet. Seventh Ave and Broadway.




Renaissance Revival


stone facade





  Rendering copyright Simon Fieldhouse. Click here for a Simon Fieldhouse gallery.


The Art Students League of New York, founded in 1875, boasts an alumni list that is a veritable Who's Who in American art, from Winslow Homer and Georgia O'Keeffe to Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Louise Nevelson. It currently enrolls approximately 2,200 students from around the world who sign up for month-long, studio-based courses that meet seven days a week, morning, afternoon and evening. Based on the atelier system of nineteenth-century France, the curriculum respects the individual views and methods of each instructor. As a part of its offerings, the League sponsors exhibitions, panel discussions and lectures, which are free and open to the public.

Founded by and for artists, the Art Students League of New York has been a vital, energetic school for artists and has maintained a commitment to nurturing creativity. Many well-known and influential artists have taught or studied at the League. Some of them are Romare Bearden, Thomas Hart Benton, Isabel Bishop, Alexander Calder, George Grosz, Hans Hofmann, Roy Lichtenstein, Paul Manship, Reginald Marsh, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, John Sloan, and William Zorach.

Early League instructors included William Merritt Chase, Kenyon Cox, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Arthur Wesley Dow, Frank Duveneck, Thomas Eakins, Daniel Chester French, Childe Hassam, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Henry Twachtman, and J. Alden Weir.

The vitality continues today. Seventy-five instructors, with distinguished careers as artists, teach approximately 2,500 students on an individual basis in atelier classes. With life models in many classes, the League offers drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture (both modeling and direct carving). Instructors develop their own methods and students choose a range of modes from realism to abstraction.

The League, located at 215 West 57th Street, New York, NY, also presents films, panel discussions, lectures, and talks by noted artists, gallery owners, technical experts, critics, and scholars. Most of these events are free and all are open to the public. Students may register in any class they choose, class size permitting. Morning, afternoon, evening, and weekend courses are offered monthly, with sessions for children, teens, and adults.

Gallery hours vary. Call the League for exact times. 

A Brief History of The League's Early Years

From "The Art Students League
Selections from the Permanent Collection" 1987
Special thanks to Ronald G. Pisano

Post-Civil War prosperity effected an artistic awakening in some sections of America, most notably New York City, which in the 1870s was rapidly becoming the artistic capital of the nation. Its major art institution, the National Academy of Design (founded in 1825), was one of the oldest organizations of its kind in America. Representation in one of its annual exhibitions was a significant accomplishment for an artist; and election to full membership was indeed a paramount goal for many. By the mid-1870s, however, artists and art students in New York increasingly realized that the Academy was no longer adequate to serve the needs of their growing profession.

Many young artists returning from their studies abroad were 'au courant' with the most modern European developments. They felt that the established members of the Academy were conservative by comparison and thus unsympathetic to their relatively radical ideas and more sophisticated attitudes toward art. One progressive group found support at the home of Richard Watson Gilder, editor of The Century Magazine, and his wife Helena de Kay Gilder. The informal gatherings at which these artists exchanged ideas about art began as early as 1874 and climaxed three years later when they formed the Society of American Artists. In great part, this development reflected the conflict between the "old guard" at the National Academy and the young rebels: conservative versus progressive, insular as opposed to cosmopolitan.

It was also prompted by the fact that there was just not enough exhibition space to accommodate the rapidly growing number of artists flocking to the city. The annual exhibitions of the Society of American Artists helped to alleviate this problem, and the Society itself provided the more progressive artists with their own forum.

A similar development took place in the spring of 1875, when it was rumored that the National Academy, due to financial difficulties, would cancel all classes until December. Students were alarmed. The Academy required them to devote the first ten weeks of each school session to drawing from the antique; so if this were true, they would not get to paint from life, their main interest, until February of the following year. Even more distressing was another rumor; if classes did resume, there might not be any instructor hired to direct them. The fact that their teacher Lemuel Wilmarth had not been asked to serve this function seemed to substantiate the story. Since there were no alternative means by which art students could engage in any formal course of study from live models, the students were particularly eager to deal with this dire situation before it was too late.

They met with Wilmarth to discuss the matter. The result of their meeting was the formation of the Art Students League. From the start, it was evident that the founding of the Art Students League was precipitated by the possible cancellation of the Academy's classes. In addition, the students were dissatisfied with the rigid and limited course of study the Academy offered. They identified, and soon aligned themselves with, those artists who would soon form the Society of American Artists (and who would later become the chief instructors at the League).

Like the National Academy, the League was established as a membership organization, but there was one major difference: unlike the Academy, where one had to be elected to a relatively small and elite group of artists, the Art Students League offered membership to any candidate with acceptable moral character and the means to pay his dues. The informal nature of the League's organization was also very different from that of the Academy.

At first, the major concern of its organizers was the continuation of life classes and the need to secure a place in which to conduct them. Modest quarters were obtained at 108 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of Sixteenth Street. These quarters consisted of one half of a room measuring twenty by thirty feet. Within a month's time, attendance had risen to approximately seventy students, and the other half of the room had to be rented as well.