New York National Academy of Design

One of the largest public collections of 19th and 20th century American art is housed in the National Academy of Design museum in New York. It gives people a sense of what it must have been like to be an American rich man in the early 20th century.

The National Academy of Design was created in 1825 by several important artistic personalities, but the most outstanding among them were Asher Durand and Samuel FB Morse. Asher Brown Durand was born in 1796 in Springfield, New Jersey, the eighth of nine children. Already in his childhood, he helped his father in his watchmaking and silversmithing workshop. He eventually followed in his footsteps and became an engraver as well. In 1823, he was already one of the most sought-after engravers in New York – his fame came mainly from the engraving of the painting “Declaration of Independence” by John Trumbull.

In 1832, Durand ended his rich career as an engraver and began to devote himself to portrait painting. He was particularly charmed by landscape painting and thus won the public’s favor, but it also brought him considerable financial resources. Durand eventually became one of the most famous landscape painters and representatives of the Hudson River School. He was also a highly respected figure in New York art circles. In the years 1845 – 1861 he was president of the National Academy of Design.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the second of the museum’s founders, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He was actively involved in art from early childhood, graduated from college, studied at Yale University and became a pupil of the influential American painter Washington Allston. At first he made a living by painting portraits, historical scenes, he was a sculptor, and later he began to be overcome by the desire to discover something new. The first invention was the so-called marble chisel, which could carve three-dimensional sculptures in a shorter period of time than was usual. He later invented the electric telegraph, and in 1832 he was struck by the idea of inventing electromagnetic telegraphy and a new alphabet, which he eventually succeeded in doing. In 1838, Morse changed the telegraphic code that was eventually named after him and is known today as “Morse’s code”.

These two important figures of the 19th century worked together to create a museum that would compete with the then-dominant American Academy of Fine Arts. The establishment of this new art organization made New York the center of art in the country. From 1940, the National Academy was housed in a beaux-arts style town house intended to serve the railroad heirs of Archer Hountington. Together with his wife Anna, he became a member of the academy and devoted himself to it.

Today, a rich collection of art treasures is stored here, which is constantly expanding. The National Academy of Design and the School of Fine Arts (as the full name of the museum reads) is managed exclusively by its members, i.e. artists. They then elect important architects, sculptors, painters and graphic artists to it. Prominent members of the academy included, for example, Winslow Homer, Frank Lloyd Wright or Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The institution includes a museum, a school of fine arts and an honorary association of artists.

The collection stored in the museum consists of more than 5 thousand works representing almost all possible artistic styles. Museum members keep adding more and more works to it. Newly acquired exhibits are for sale and are usually located in the lobby of the museum. The entrance to the foyer is decorated with a bronze statue of Diana, which is the work of Anna Hyatt Huntington.

The gallery located on the second and fourth floors hosts limited-time exhibitions, the third floor is closed to the public. The best time to visit this academy is during the anniversary period of the month-long Annual Exhibition, which has been held regularly every spring since 1826. During it, you can view the latest works of the national art scene.

New York National Academy of Design