ACL Project List
 
 
The Whitney Studio is located on the 2nd floor hayloft level of the original 1877 carriage house at 8 W. Eighth Street.  Currently located within the larger complex of the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture at 8 W. Eighth Street in Greenwich Village, New York, NY, the building complex is an amalgamation of structures which date to various construction periods, purchased and assembled by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.  The current Eighth Street frontage is comprised of four row-houses dating ca. 1838, which are attached to corresponding carriage houses that face historic MacDougal Alley.
 
By the late twentieth century, many of the rowhouses and carriage houses that had previously been upper middle class residences in Greenwich Village were being adapted to tenements, businesses, and warehouses. Due to cheaper rents and seclusion from the social distractions of the center of bustling Manhattan, artists began to reclaim many of the stables scattered around Washington Square. Whitney purchased 19 MacDougal Alley in 1907, converting the carriage house into her private sculpture studio. Because she was the only artist on the street not also living in her studio, Whitney’s stable retains a stronger sense of its original purpose, with the most significant architectural change to the structure being limited to the removal of the hayloft.  
MacDougal Alley, 1907. NYSS
 
  Whitney and sculptor Daniel Chester French began constructing the modern site in 1913, when they purchased two West 8th Street row-houses. Moving her studio to the neighboring carriage house, Whitney commissioned artist and close friend Robert Winthrop Chanler to decorate her original studio as a private salon. For the room, he created seven stained glass windows, filled with Boschian scenes of hybrid animals and plants. The space also featured a large screen entitled Astrological, with Deep Sea Fantasy on the corresponding side, which depicted submarine flora and fauna amidst various octopi and iridescent reds, yellows and greens. While Whitney was accustomed to these tropes from her Chanler-commissioned “undersea” themed bathroom in Westbury, the innovative, provocative focus of the room was the sculpted fireplace and chimney which resembled a giant blaze across the vertical stretch of the wall.
 
In 1930, Whitney, under the guidance of Juliana Force, made the announcement that she would open the Whitney Museum of American Art.  The exterior of the Eighth Street building was remodeled under a unified façade by Noel and Miller, with the interior galleries designed by Bruce Buttfield. In stark contrast to the cold impersonality of contemporaneous museum institutions, the Whitney Museum offered a far more intimate and warm approach.  Following the museum’s decision to move uptown in 1954, the National Recreation and Parks Association operated the building until 1967.  

Facade of the Whitney Museum of American Art, c.

1931. WMAA Archives
 
  Facing demolition, the building complex was saved through the rallying efforts of Mercedes Matter, who had recently founded an alternative art school. Since 1967, the property has been home to the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, a premiere art school which has been affiliated with leading artists, art historians and critics since its opening. It is an exceptional building complex which has been devoted to the appreciation and practice of art for the entirety of the twentieth century, uniting its contemporary art practices with a long legacy of influential American artists who have practiced and displayed their works within its walls. The School’s reuse of the original Whitney Museum is a remarkable example of historical continuity, continuing a mission to propel contemporary generations of artists to create and appreciate art.
Front entrance to the New York Studio School, c. 1980. NYSS
 

Original Decorative Features

The room was originally furnished with a decorative screen and a series of seven stained glass windows, all painted and fabricated by Robert Winthrop Chanler.  The room was also tied together with a red curtain that hung along the lower half of the north wall.

 
 
This is believed to have been the screen that was originally made to accompany the decorative design for the Whitney Studio.  The screen was two sided, this side featuring Deep Sea Fantasy, with Astrological Screen on the corresponding side.   Detail of one of the stained glass windows from Whitney Studio.  Five of the windows are currently on view at Retro Modern Lighting, while the other two are in private collections.