While in Chicago to advise and work on the fine arts section of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, architects Charles F. McKim, Daniel Burnham, and Richard Howland Hunt, painters John La Farge and Frank Millet, and sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Daniel Chester French, among others, met regularly. From their collaborative experience and discussions came the idea for an American school for artists in Europe. Charles F. McKim was especially enthusiastic. He strongly believed that collaborative experience should be available to future American artists, and perceived a real need for an American school in Europe--preferably in Rome, the very best place to study art, in his opinion.
By March of the following year, McKim was busy devising plans for the school and persuading like-minded architects and artists to assist. He proposed to finance the school by convincing institutions with traveling scholarships in the arts to send those students to Rome. Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and the Rotch Scholarship fund readily agreed to the scheme, and in ensuing years many others followed suit. In October, 1894, the American School of Architecture in Rome opened temporary quarters in the Palazzo Torlonia. The school consisted of its Director, Austin Lord, three fellows, and a visiting student; its "library" contained but one volume.
A move to the larger, more suitable Villa Aurora occurred in July 1895. Rent from two subtenants (the newly established American School of Classical Studies in Rome and the British and American Archaeological Society Library in Rome), along with a personal contribution from McKim, made this financially feasible.
The American School of Architecture in Rome was incorporated in the State of New York, 1895, and 10 shares of capital stock were issued. Despite substantial fundraising efforts in Chicago, New York, and Boston, severe financial problems continued. The American School of Classical Studies in Rome vacated the Villa Aurora in 1896--and with it went a sizeable portion of the School of Architecture's income. McKim frequently made up the deficit from his own pocket.
Eventually, it was decided that the American School of Architecture in Rome must be reorganized along the lines of the French Academy and that national sponsorship needed to be obtained through an act of Congress. In June of 1897, the American School of Architecture in Rome voted to dissolve itself and create the American Academy in Rome. The new institution would assume all assets and obligations, fellowships in painting and architecture were to be added to the program, and its Board of Trustees would include architects and artists. The Academy is not a school. Its fellows and visiting students, already professionally trained, go to Rome for further development and for collaboration and association with others. In the words of Director Gorham Phillips Stevens: "The object of the American Academy in Rome is not to afford opportunities for a few individuals to perfect themselves for the practice of their chosen professions. The ideal is to create an atmosphere in which a limited number of carefully selected artists and scholars may develop that synthesis of intellectual culture which will make them worthy to preserve and continue the great traditions of the past in order that the standard of art and literature may be handed on from year to year, constantly strengthened and improved."
Beginning in 1901, bills to make the American Academy in Rome a "national institution" were introduced in Congress on several occasions. A hearing was finally scheduled in 1905, and a revised bill that prohibited government funding and specified that U.S. officials may not be Trustees was signed into law. Serious efforts to create an Endowment Fund and secure better quarters were associated with the movement to obtain status as a national institution. The Academy was successful in meeting all of these objectives. In 1904, the Academy moved to the Villa Mirafiore (also known as Villa Mirafiori), which it soon purchased and renovated. The Endowment Fund raised well over a million dollars. Donors of $100,000 to the Endowment Fund, designated "Founders" of the American Academy in Rome, were: The Carnegie Foundation, Henry C. Frick, Harvard College, Charles F. McKim, J. P. Morgan, Sr., J. P. Morgan, Jr., The Rockefeller Foundation, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William K. Vanderbilt, and Henry Walters. Other categories of donors were "Incorporators" (a new Act of Incorporation was required at the time the American Academy in Rome was chartered as a national institution) and "Life Members."
The American School of Classical Studies in Rome, which had been established by the Archaeological Society in 1895 and during its first year shared the Villa Aurora with the American School of Architecture in Rome, entered into a consolidation agreement with the American Academy in Rome in 1911. Their merger went into effect on the last day of 1912, and ever since, the American Academy in Rome has consisted of the School of Fine Arts and the School of Classical Studies, administered by a common director. The School of Classical Studies is composed of fellows and visiting scholars who are graduate students, secondary teachers, or professors engaged in research in the areas of archaeology, ancient art, philology, and humanistic studies. Women were a part of the School of Classical Studies from its beginning, but were not permitted to participate in the School of Fine Arts until well after World War II. Beginning in 1923, the School of Classical Studies instituted Summer Sessions which appealed to secondary teachers, and attracted an enrollment that was largely female.
Originally, the School of Fine Arts offered fellowships in architecture, painting, and sculpture. Fellowships in landscape architecture were added in 1915; in 1920, a Department of Music was established, and along with it fellowships in musical composition. Fellowships in art history were established in 1947. Unmarried men under age 30 were eligible to compete for the fine arts fellowships awarded annually (except for landscape architecture, awarded every third year); the duration of fellowships ranged from one to three years at various points in the institution's history. In residence along with fellows of the American Academy in Rome, might be holders of various traveling scholarships: the McKim Fellowship, the Columbia Traveling Scholarship, the Perkins Scholarship, the Robinson Traveling Scholarship (Harvard), the Rotch Scholarship, the Julia Appleton Scholarship, the Traveling Scholarship and Stewardson Memorial Scholarship (University of Pennsylvania), the Cresson Scholarship (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts), the Drexel Institute Traveling Scholarship, the Lazarus Scholarship (Metropolitan Museum of Art), the Lowell Scholarship (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and the Rinehart Scholarship (Peabody Institute, Baltimore). Visiting students, who remained for a much briefer period than fellows or recipients of various traveling scholarships, were admitted to all lectures and granted use the library, but resided elsewhere. The Academy opened an Atelier in downtown Rome for visiting students in 1927, which operated until financial considerations forced its discontinuation seven years later.
As the merger was being planned, J. P. Morgan, Sr., who was interested in both the American Academy in Rome and the American School of Classical Studies in Rome, began buying properties on the Janiculum, adjacent to Villa Aureilia. Villa Aurelia, built on the summit of the Janiculum in 1650, had been bequeathed to the American Academy in Rome in 1909 by Clara Jessup Heyland. Complications surrounding the gift of Villa Aurelia--including the will being contested by Mrs. Heyland's brother, and problems with unsettled tax assessments--were overcome in the interest of acquiring the outstanding building and its extensive grounds. Not long before his death in 1913, Morgan donated his neighboring land, and the American Academy in Rome continued to expand its Janiculum holdings through purchases and gifts from others. Morgan also agreed to provide a loan for construction of a new building. This building, designed by McKim, Mead, and White and known as the Main Building or Academy Building, opened in 1915; it served as the fellows' residence and work area, and included room for the library, offices, and space for exhibitions and other public events.
During World War I, the American Academy in Rome managed to remain open, although no new fellows arrived during the war years and the number of resident fellows and staff dwindled considerably. Most who remained were involved in some type of civilian war work, often with the Red Cross. In fact, Villa Aurelia was rented by the Red Cross in Italy for office space, and the Main Building was offered as a convalescent hospital, but the war ended before it could be put to that use.
After Italy declared war on the United States in 1941, the American Academy in Rome closed for the remainder of World War II. Those who had been awarded fellowships in classics just prior to the Academy's closing were given the option of using their stipends for study at home or waiting until conditions permitted travel to Rome. A very reduced staff stayed to care for the property and continue library cataloguing, coping with often severe wartime shortages of food and fuel. In addition, there were financial hardships. When bank accounts of enemy aliens were frozen and it was no longer possible to transfer funds from the United States, the Swiss Legation and Vatican arranged for loans to keep the Academy and its staff afloat. Funds that would have been awarded to new fellows during this period were put to use in other ways. In 1943, the American Academy in Rome made a grant to the Citizen's Committee for the Army and Navy, Inc. for competitions to award commissions to artists and art students throughout the country, funding more than 100 triptychs for chapels, as well as murals, medals, and sculpture. Seniors in American colleges and universities were eligible to compete for several scholarships for graduate work in classical studies awarded by the American Academy in Rome.
In 1945, the Academy was the site of Leave Courses on various aspects of Italian culture offered to servicemen. From the end of the war until the Academy reopened at the start of the 1946/47 academic year, G.I. Fellowships were offered to discharged soldiers wishing to study at the Academy, making the institution eligible to receive surplus equipment and rations. During this time intensive planning was underway for administrative changes and new programs.
While in Chicago to collaborate on the fine arts section for the World's Columbian Exposition, architects Charles F. McKim, Daniel Burnham, Richard Howland Hunt, painters John La Farge, and Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Daniel Chester French, among others, met regularly and from their collaborative experience and discussions came the idea for an American school in Europe.
American School of Architecture in Rome opened in temporary quarters at the Palazzo Torlonia with Austin Lord, Director, three fellows, and a visiting student.
Villa Aurora leased with 2 subtenants, the American School of Classical Studies and the British and American Archaeological Society Library in Rome American School of Architecture incorporated and 10 shares of capital stock issued (2 each to McKim and Hunt, and 1 to Burnham, Kendall, Schermerhorn, Boring, Garland, and Dill) McKim visits Rome.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, administrator of Jacob H. Lazarus Scholarship for the study of mural painting, agrees to send the winner to Rome American School of Classical Studies in Rome vacates Villa Aurora.
American School of Architecture in Rome dissolved and reorganized as the American Academy in Rome; the assets (including the lease on Villa Aurora) of the American School of Architecture in Rome were transferred and its program expanded to include fellowships in painting and sculpture Samuel A. B. Abbott appointed first Director Rome Prize discontinued (for 9 years) due to lack of funds.
Incorporated in New York State; trustees begin to focus on raising an endowment.
Move to Villa Mirafiore (also known as Villa Mirafiori); occupied until 1914.
Chartered by the Congress of the United States; a bill signed by President Roosevelt made the American Academy in Rome a national institution (receiving no government funding and barring U.S. officials from acting as Trustees).
Purchase of Villa Mirafiore finalized; renovations begun.
Villa Aurelia bequeathed to the Academy by Clara Jessup Heyland (used until 1932); there were protracted problems surrounding the acquisition of the property including a brother who contested the will and unsettled taxes.
School of Classical Studies in Rome (established by the Archaeological Institute of America in 1895) and the American Academy in Rome announce their consolidation [the merger became effective on the final day of 1912].
Lands on the Janiculum adjacent to Villa Aurelia, recently acquired by J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr., transferred to the American Academy in Rome.
American Academy in Rome now consists of the School of Fine Arts and the School of Classical Studies. New York office moves to the Architect's Building, 101 Park Ave., remaining at this location until 1973. By this date, largely through the generosity of J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr., nearly all of the land bounded by Via Angelo Masina, Via Giacomo Medici, Via Pietro Riselli, and the Aurelian Wall on the Janiculum had been purchased and many improvements made to the properties near the Villa Aurelia. Construction begins on the new Academy building designed by McKim, Mead, and White and situated on the grounds of Villa Aurelia; financed through a loan from J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr. (after Morgan Sr.'s death, his son offered to cancel the loan at an amount equal to funds raised by the Academy for the purpose).
First Fellowship in Landscape Architecture established; opening of new Academy building housing the fellows' residential quarters, work areas, library, offices, and spaces for public programs.
Villa Aurelia rented to the Red Cross for office space, and the new Main building was slated to become a convalescent hospital, but the war ended before it could be put to use.
New York office reorganized by Roscoe Guernsey, executive secretary; sale of Villa Mirafiore; Academic Council established in Rome.
Department of Music and Fellowship in Musical Composition established.
School of Classical Studies establishes summer sessions, largely attended by teachers.
Second Fellowship in Landscape Architecture funded by Garden Club of America (later permanently endowed).
Academy opens an Atelier in downtown Rome, providing studios for visiting students (operated until 1934).
First Thomas Spencer Jerome lecturer appointed.
Academy closes for duration of World War II; a skeletal staff remain behind to care for the property and continue library cataloguing; Italy declares war on the United States.
After transfer of funds from the U.S. proved impossible and enemy aliens were prohibited from withdrawing their own funds from Italian banks, the Swiss Legation and Vatican offered assistance to the Academy by providing loans.
Academy grant to Citizen's Committee for the Army and Navy, Inc., funded hundreds of triptychs; murals, medals, and sculptures also commissioned Academy awards scholarships in classical studies at American colleges and universities.
"Leave courses," held at the Academy, consisting mainly of lectures by distinguished scholars still in Rome, instituted for U.S. servicemen.
Regular program resumes at the start of the academic year.
Fellowship in the History of Art established.
Loan of printed matter for microfilming by the Archives of American Art (reels ITRO 2-3 and 11-13).
New York office moves to American Federation of Arts building, 41 East 65th St. (until 1993).
Gift of New York office records to the Archives of American Art.
Gift of Rome office records to the Archives of American Art.
New York office moves to Metropolitan Club, 7 East 60th St.