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March 23, 1926 New York City

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GERTRUDE VANDERBILT WHITNEY
Sculptor

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GERTRUDE VANDERBILT WHITNEY

Many New York society women of wealth have, during the past few decades, entered business, industry or finance, but it remained for a daughter of the Vanderbilts to invade the Art world, and by steady application and industry, through hampered by exacting social duties, achieve success and international note as a sculptor.

Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, known in art circles as Gertrude (Vanderbilt) Whitney, is the eldest daughter of Cornelius and Alice Claypoole (Gwynne) Vanderbilt, and was born in New York City.  

The Vanderbilts trace to Jan Aertsen Vander Bilt who came from Holland, in 1650 and settled in Flatbush, Long Island. His son in 1715, settled in New Dorp, Staten Island, where in 1794, his great-great-grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt the "Commodore", was born, and before 20 years of age laid the fortunes of the family by shipping and transportation interests. He later went into railroads, particularly the New York Central and greatly expanded its activities.
 
His son, William Henry (1821-85), still further increased the New York Central's prestige and prosperity, was a noted patron of Art of Vanderbilt University, the College of Physicians and Surgeons and of hospitals. He married Maria Louise Kissam, and their eldest son, Cornelius Vanderbilt (the father of Gertrude (Vanderbilt) Whitney), who was born 1843 and was married to Alice Claypoole Gwynne, daughter of Abraham Evan Gwynne, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Cettie (Flagg) Gwynne, daughter of Henry Collins Flagg, mayor of New Haven, Cincinnati 1836-41. The Gwynne family goes back to Colonial days, and the Claypooles are of English descent, tracing to Edward I King of England, Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon, and to the Earl of Heneford and Essex (1199) one o the barons, who attended by 2,000 armed knights, compelled King John to grant the Magna Carta, which was signed at Runnymede on June 15, 1215.

Gertrude (Vanderbilt) Whitney, the daughter of Cornelius and Alice Claypoole (Gwynne) Vanderbilt, was privately tutored and later attended the Brearley School in the metropolis. She studied sculpture under Hendrik Christian Anderson and James E. Frazer, of New York City, and took a course at the Art Students' League. Later on she studied in Paris, France, under Andrew O'Conner and Rodin.

For awhile Mrs. Whitney, was regarded as a dilettante and not taken seriously. The fact that she occupied such a high social position, which of course made insistent demands upon her, had much to do with this attitude on the part of the public, But Mrs, Whitney kept steadily on, her technique and true artistic instincts at last winning her recognition and success.

One of her sculptures was exhibited at the Louisiana Exposition, St Louis, and in 1908 came her first victory, when she participated in a prize for the best design (by an architect, mural painter and sculptor) of an outdoor swimming pool. General Atterbury contributed the general design. Hugo Ballin the decorative panels, and Mrs. Whitney the fountain with the figure of Pan.

In 1910 her three-figure marble fountain won the gold medal at the World's Fair, San Francisco. In 1924 a bronze replica of this-- the Arlington Fountain -- was presented to the Peruvian Government by the American Society of Peru. 

In 1912 was first shown her model for an Aztec fountain, now in the Pan-American Building, Washington. The same year the Metropolitan Museum, New York, bought her head of a Spanish peasant.

It was her commemorative design of the "Titanic" victims, however, that placed her in the first rank of American sculptors. This she won in open competition. In the Luxembourg, Paris, is a replica of the head of the memorial in black marble.

Mrs. Whitney, during the World War, was very active in various kinds of relief work, in 1914 establishing at Juilly, France, "Ambulance American Hospital B."

Mrs. Whitney spent five months in the war zone, in trenches and hospitals, and her experience naturally gave her work a new trend.  Her war sculptures included: " The Doughboy," a panel for the Victory Arch New York City; a monument for the capital, "The Spirit of the Red Cross", a replica of which is to be erected in Paris; "His Bunkie", having fraternal significance; "Blinded", a sightless soldier "Chateau Thierry", a single figure symbolizing strength and resolution.  "Home Again", the meeting of soldier and beloved; "Orders", soldier reading his call to the front; "Honorably Discharged", a soldier limping on a crutch; "The Engineer", "The Aviator", and "Private of the Fifteenth", the latter a colored doughboy at salute.

Richard Fletcher, a noted English critic, in reviewing for the "London Graphic" an exhibition of Mrs. Whitney's works in the McLean Gallery, London, said:

"Mrs. Whitney's reputation rests upon a sound basis inasmuch as her technique is beyond criticism ... Her earlier works show the influence of Rodin ... Her figures of American soldiers reveal to the British mind exactly that motive which places the United States in the war, shoulder to shoulder, with the British, French and Italians."

Among Mrs. Whitney's best known works, not already mentioned, are: "Paganisme"; "Caryatid", bought by Metropolitan Museum;

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