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Whitney Museum of American Art

Whitney Museum of American Art

Whitney Museum of American Art

The Whitney Museum of American Art is an art museum in Manhattan that focuses on 20th- and 21st-century American art. Its permanent collection comprises more than 23,000 artworks.

The museum’s collection includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, films, videos, and artifacts of new media by more than 3,400 artists.

It places particular emphasis on exhibiting the work of living artists as well as maintaining an extensive permanent collection of important pieces from the first half of the last century.

It was founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942), a wealthy American art patron after whom it is named. From 1966 to 2014, the Whitney was at 945 Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The museum closed in 2014 to relocate to a new building in the West Village, Meatpacking District neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan; it reopened at the new location in 2015.

A Virtual Tour of the Whitney Museum of American Art

Highlights Tour of the Whitney Museum of American Art

“Dempsey and Firpo” by George Bellows

“Dempsey and Firpo” by George Bellows depicts the boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Luis Firpo on September 14, 1923.

The painting depicts the dramatic moment when Firpo knocked Dempsey out of the ring, even though Dempsey was the eventual winner that night.

Painted in the style of the Ashcan School movement, it has become Bellows’ most famous painting. Bellows gave himself a cameo as the balding man at the extreme left of the picture.

The fight was a historic boxing fight. It was the first time that a Latin American fighter challenged for the World Heavyweight title, and it was one of the defining matches of Dempsey’s career.

Dempsey had been champion since 1919, and Firpo was one of the top heavyweights of the world. Eighty thousand fans paid to see the fight live at the Polo Grounds in New York City.

In the aftermath, Dempsey and Firpo both became icons. Dempsey later lost his Heavyweight title to Gene Tunney, he did military service and opened a restaurant in New York before dying in 1983.

New York Interior” by Edward Hopper

“New York Interior” by Edward Hopper depicts a girl framed in an apartment window or door sitting on her bed with her back to the viewer.

She is sewing a length of white fabric spread out in her lap. She is only partly dressed, and we have been given a voyeuristic view of our unique interpretation.

Is this a view from a passing train or another New York apartment? Is this a fleeting glimpse of an anonymous scene?

“Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney” by Robert Henri

“Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney” by Robert Henri depicts the wealthy American heiress who was also a sculptor, art patron, and collector.

Henri transformed the traditional pose of a recumbent female, usually a courtesan or the goddess Venus into a portrait of an independent modern woman.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney commissioned this portrait in 1916 from Robert Henri, a popular and influential teacher at the Art Students League of New York. Henri was a leader of the urban realist painters and a popular teacher and mentor to women artists. 

Whitney was a professional sculptor and had founded the Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village, an exhibition space and hub for new American art.

Whitney’s husband, Harry Payne Whitney, refused to allow her to hang Henri’s portrait in their Fifth Avenue townhouse. He didn’t want his friends to see a picture of his wife in pants.

“Armistice Night” by George Luks

“Armistice Night” by George Luks depicts one of the energetic, flag-waving celebrations of the Armistice that marked the end of World War I. The motion of the human drama in the celebratory crowd echoes the flight of a flock of birds across the landscape.

The Armistice of 1918 was the armistice signed in France that ended fighting on land, sea, and air in World War I between the Allies and Germany. Previous armistices had been agreed with Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

Luks capturing the event in swift strokes, demonstrating his years as an illustrator. In his early career, he was an illustrator for the Philadelphia Press, where he became practiced in quickly sketching scenes of breaking news.

Luks does not focus on the details; the painting is a blur of American and Allied flags, faces, and bodies in the shadow of New York’s buildings.

Blue smoke from the firework obscures the background, and no individuals stand out in the crowd. Typically, Luks focused on the spirit of the moment rather than the visual details.

Whitney Museum of American Art

  • Name:                   Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Informal Name:    Whitney
  • City:                      New York City
  • Established:          1931
  • Type:                     Art Museum
  • Location:               99 Gansevoort Street, Lower Manhattan, New York City

Whitney Museum of American Art – Map

Whitney Museum of American Art – Virtual Tour

Whitney Museum of American Art – Virtual Tour

A Tour of New York Museums

Whitney Museum of American Art

Whitney Museum of American Art


“The modern world thinks of art as very important:
something close to the meaning of life.”

– Alain de Botton


Photo Credit: MusikAnimal [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

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