EXHIBITION ON VIEW: GERTRUDE VANDERBILT WHITNEY: SCULPTURE
June 9 @ 11:30 am - September 30 @ 3:30 pm
COE HALL ANNOUNCES NEW GERTRUDE VANDERBILT WHITNEY: SCULPTURE EXHIBITION AT COE HALL – OPENS JUNE 9TH
Organized by the Norton Museum of Art. This exhibition is made possible by the generosity of Anne Berkley Smith. Additional support is provided by The Priscilla and John Richman Endowment for American Art, The Mr. and Mrs. Hamish Maxwell Exhibition Endowment, and The Diane Belfer Endowment for Sculpture at the Norton Museum of Art.
This summer Planting Field Foundation is exhibiting sculpture at Coe Hall by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney who lived on Long Island with a large 1913 purpose-built studio in Old Westbury by Delano & Aldrich. One hundred years ago her career as a well-known and successful artist began with her 1912 commission for the Titanic Memorial in Washington D. C. William R. Coe, owner of Planting Fields, and who made his fortune as a marine insurance broker, was involved with underwriting the ship’s loss. Coe knew Vanderbilt Whitney and in 1917, working with the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association in Cody, Wyoming, where he spent the summers, approached her to commission the larger than life-size equestrian sculpture of Buffalo Bill – The Scout. The piece was cast in bronze in Brooklyn and was exhibited in Central Park to popular acclaim before it went by rail to Cody, where to this day it remains a symbol of the town.
Vanderbilt Whitney’s career continued to grow as she received more commissions and her work was often exhibited in New York and Paris, where she won prestigious awards. She began as a sculptor in her mid -twenties when she started to distance herself from the high society world into which she had been born. She was determined to establish herself as a creative artist, though her wealth, and being a woman in a world of mostly male sculptors, made it difficult for her to be taken seriously. Some of her best works in the exhibition are the realist bronzes of First World War trench soldiers whom she had observed when working at the front as a nurse. This year is the centenary of the end of the First World War which makes it fitting to see these twelve bronzes which are very rarely seen. This exhibition is the first since her death in 1942 to survey her career; there are over thirty pieces on show.
Perhaps the most visually stunning of her sculptures in the exhibition, which takes pride of place in the great hall of the mansion, is her plaster model for the Memorial to the Sinking of the Lusitania, the ship which the Germans torpedoed in 1915. Her brother Alfred Vanderbilt was on board and was killed. It is an exceptionally bold and dramatic sculpture but was never cast in bronze.
At Coe Hall is a plaster relief sculpture above a doorway, Wheat Harvesters, from 1921, just as the new mansion was being completed. The sculpture has been newly identified as probably made by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. No documentary evidence for the commission has been found but the work is very like other pieces by the artist. The exhibition opens June 9th and is open daily through September 30th, 11:30am, last entrance 3:30pm.
$5 admission fee at the door.