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Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney papers, 1851-1975, bulk 1888-1942

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Jennifer Meehan
Scope and Contents
The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney papers measure approximately 36.1 linear feet and date from 1851 to 1975, with the bulk of the material dating from 1888 to 1942. The collection documents the life and work of the art patron and sculptor, especially her promotion of American art and artists, her philanthropy and war relief work, her commissions for memorial sculpture, and her creative writing. Papers include correspondence, journals, writings, project files, scrapbooks, photographs, artwork, printed material, two sound recordings, and miscellaneous personal papers.
Material relating to more personal aspects of Whitney's life include school papers, a paper doll book dating from her childhood, financial material, interviews, awards and honorary degrees, address and telephone books, committee files, and other items. Correspondence consists of incoming and outgoing letters concerning both personal and professional matters, including her patronage of the arts and sponsorship of artists, her sculpture commissions and exhibitions, and her war relief work and other philantrophic activities. Also found are family correspondence and correspondence received by the Flora Whitney Miller and the Whitney Museum of American Art after Whitney's death. Journals include personal ones that she kept periodically from the time she was a child to near the end of her life, in which she recorded her travels, her impressions of people, her experiences with friends, and her thoughts on art, among other topics; and social ones, in which she recorded dinners and dances attended, and people invited to different social gatherings, and in which she collected invitations received and accepted.
Scattered files can be found that relate to the Whitney Studio Club and the Whitney Museum of American Art, consisting of notebooks, catalogs, a financial report, and other material. Files relating to Whitney's own sculpture projects are more extensive and consist of correspondence, contracts, printed material, notes, financial material for proposed and completed commissions for fountains, memorials, and monuments. The Whitney Museum of American Art, rather than Whitney herself, seems to have kept these files. Files relating to Whitney's philanthropic activities span from the time just before to just after the First World War and consist of correspondence, minutes, reports, and printed material stemming from her contributions to charities and war relief organizations, her sponsorship of the war hospital in Juilly, France, and her support of the Greenwich House Social Settlement.
Whitney's writings include extensive drafts, and handwritten and typed manuscripts and copies of novels, plays, and stories, as well as some autobiographical and early writings, notes and writings on art, and clippings of published writings, documenting her principle means of creative expression towards the end of her life. Also found are some writings by others. Scrapbooks consist of clippings, photographs, letters and other material, compiled by Whitney, Flora Whitney Miller, and possibly others, documenting Whitney's public life, her sculpture commissions and exhibitions, exhibitions at the Whitney Studio, the war hospital in Juilly, France, the death of Harry Payne Whitney in 1930, and the sickness and death of Whitney in 1942.
Photographs include ones of the Whitney and Vanderbilt families, ones of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (including portraits taken by Baron Adolf de Meyer and Count Jean de Strelecki), ones of various Vanderbilt and Whitney residences and of Whitney's studios, ones of Whitney's sculpture exhibitions as well as exhibitions at her studio, and ones of her sculptures, as well as some miscellaneous and unidentified ones. Artwork consists of sketchbooks and sketches by Whitney (including sketches for sculptures) and artwork by others (including a sketchbook of Howard Cushing's containing a sketch of her and albums of World War I lithographs) collected by Whitney. Also found amongst the collection are printed material (clippings, exhibition catalogs, programs, and publications) and blueprints (including drawings for Whitney's studio on MacDougal Alley and various of her sculptures).
The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney papers were donated in 1981 and 1991 by Whitney's granddaughter, Flora Miller Irving.
Related Archival Materials note
Related material found in the Archives includes Research Material on Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney compiled by Flora Miller Irving and the Whitney Museum of American Art artists' files and records, available on microfilm only (originals are located in the Whitney Museum of American Art). Also found in the Archives of American Art's Miscellaneous Exhibition Catalog Collection are a bundle of Whitney Studio Club and Mrs. H. P. Whitney's Studio catalogs and announcements.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Processing Information
Large portions of the papers were microfilmed separately and previously available on reels 2288-2289, 2356-2375, 4861, NWH4, and N587-N591; these reels are no longer in circulation. Some of the the collection was also lent for microfilming at an earlier date and cataloged as a separate collection; this material was later donated. All portions, including the earliest loaned materials, were merged, arranged and described by Jennifer Meehan in 2006, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Five platinum prints of Whitney taken by Baron Adolf de Meyer and one toned silver gelatin print of Whitney taken by Amemiya received conservation treatment at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in the late 1980s.
In preparation for scanning, Series 2 was rearranged using an alphabetical arrangement to facilitate online access. The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2012-2013, also with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.