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In 1875, Gertrude was born the eldest daughter of the richest family in the United States. Raised in the public’s eye, she was educated at the Beardsley School, and married Harry Payne Whitney at the age of 21. Following her trips to Montmarte and Montparnasse, France in the early 1900s, Whitney enveloped herself in the burgeoning art communities of Paris and New York. She began training as a sculptor at the Art Students League in New York and studied with Auguste Rodin in Paris. It was during her time abroad that she first met Robert Winthrop Chanler. She writes:
…how fine he is in his way. Put aside the fact of his being a fraud and a flirt, and he is inspiring. To hear him talk about art, to hear his ideas, to see the great truths coming from him is worthwhile.

This meeting sparked a life-long friendship between the two artists, who undoubtedly shared their experiences as aristocratic Bohemians.

 

As a patron, Whitney supported an entire generation of American artists as they sought recognition by contemporary society. On one occasion, she purchased four, of seven paintings sold at the 1908 Macbeth Gallery exhibition of “The Eight” realist painters. John Sloan remarked of her purchase as “almost as revolutionary as painting them.” Whitney valued being an artist, as she believed one had “the sublime joy of giving thmselves to the world...it is in the expressing that the real joy exists and not so much in the method.”

 
Whitney sculpting in her studio, 1920s. Friedman, 1978