First Exhibition of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Sculpture


The Vanderbilt and Whitney names are iconic in the development of Newport.  Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s bedroom may be seen by visitors to The Breakers, where the young Ms. Vanderbilt had an ocean view bedroom.  A scion-ess of a distinguished family, she was raised to follow social tradition, and the young lady tried, marrying properly, but divorcing and following her own path after an earlier fiance, Quentin Roosevelt, had died.  In this sense, she was an early feminist.


Best known as an art patron and founder of New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, she had a significant career as a sculptor, exhibiting throughout the United States and Europe and receiving major commissions and prizes.   Her work as a nurse in World War I brought about her powerful sculptures of that conflict, many of them to become monuments to and of "The Great War". 


The Norton Museum in Palm Beach has assembled the first showing of 45 of her works, depicting  the “War to End all Wars”. Featuring approximately 45 sculptures and drawings, this is the first exhibition of Whitney’s art since her death in 1942. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney: Sculpture showcases rarely seen, ragged and realistic works from private collections, examining remarkable variety —from her earliest classical sculptures to her more symbolic public monuments, from her bleakly Realist depiction of the tragedy of World War I, to her late Art Deco work. One of her early works is a model for a memorial to the Titanic. Her work disturbs, enlightens, and surprises.


Whitney was one of the only Americans who did not glorify the war in her public monuments, and her sensitive portraits of working class people, including African Americans and the unemployed, are also unusually advanced for her time. or. She admired and followed Auguste Rodin, the famed French sculptor. A century after she worked, both the compelling nature of Whitney’s art and her contemporaries’ admiration for it made it time for a reassessment. The exhibit, curated by Ellen E. Roberts, and the Norton’s Harold and Anne Berkley Smith, Curator of American Art, will travel to the Newport Art Museum in 2019, a homecoming of a most poignant sort.


                                                                                  -- L.P.














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