National Academy Museum and School, New York, United States

The American Academy of Design (now called The National Academy) is an association of American artists and a museum and art school headquartered in New York. The National Academy is a community of artists, students, museum-goers, and supporters of the arts. Since 1825, the National Academy Museum, School, and association of esteemed artists and architects—National Academicians—have been united in the common goal of bringing art to all through arts education and exhibition. Building and sharing the heritage of the arts in America is central to our mission. The Academy Museum celebrates the visual journey of the arts in America. Marked by discovery, experimentation and innovation, the Museum’s permanent collection—comprised of artist-submitted works—offers profound insights into the story of American art. Through special exhibits, ARTalks and events, the Museum shares the living, growing legacy of the prominent artists and architects in the National Academy.

The National Academy Museum and School, founded in New York City as the National Academy of Design – known simply as the “National Academy” – is an honorary association of American artists founded in 1825 by Samuel F. B. Morse, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Cole, Martin E. Thompson, and others “to promote the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition.”

The Academy is a professional honorary organization, a school, and a museum. Although one cannot apply for membership, full members of the National Academy are named from the highest ranks of American artists and architects, and are identified using the post-nominal “NA” (National Academician), while associates are designated with “ANA.” The school offers studio instruction, master classes, intensive critiques, various workshops, and lunchtime lectures. Scholarships are available. The museum houses a public collection of over 7,000 works of American art from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

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The Academy has been located at several locations over the years. Notable among them was a building built during 1863-1865, designed by architect P. B. Wight in Venetian Gothic style, which was modeled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Another locale was at West 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan. Since 1942 the academy has occupied a mansion that was the former home of sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer Milton Huntington at Fifth Avenue and Eighty-ninth Street.

The original founders of the National Academy of Design were students of the American Academy of the Fine Arts. However, by 1825 the students of the American Academy felt a lack of support for teaching from the Academy, its board composed of merchants, lawyers, and physicians, and from its unsympathetic president, the famous American Revolutionary War artist Colonel John Trumbull. Samuel F. B. Morse and other students set about forming “the drawing association” to meet several times each week for the study the art of design. Still, the association was viewed as a dependent organization of the American Academy, from which they felt neglected. An attempt was made to reconcile the difference and maintain a single academy by appointing six of the artists from the association as directors of the American Academy. When four of the nominees were not elected, however, the frustrated artists resolved to form a new academy and the National Academy of Design was born.

Among the teaching staff were numerous artists, including Will Hicok Low, who taught from 1889 to 1892. The famous American poet William Cullen Bryant also gave lectures. Architect Alexander Jackson Davis (A.J. Davis) taught at the Academy. Painter Lemuel Wilmarth was the first full-time instructor Gulian C. Verplanck, a Congressman and a man of letters, gave an address at the school in 1824. and Silas Dustin was a curator.