Art Students League New York
Leading art school in America using informal French atelier system of teaching.

Pin it

Art Students League of New York
215 West 57th Street.

Art Students League New York (est. 1975)


What is the Art Students League?
Origins and History
Famous League Instructors
Famous League Alumni
Contact Information
New York Art Venues

See also: New York Art Schools.

Walter Shirlaw (1838-1919)
One of the League's first instructors.

Rhode Island
Washington DC

See: Art Museums in America.

For an explanation of the
history & teaching methods
in the Academies of Arts,
see: Academic Art.


For the history, types of art
course, and tuition fees for
one of the top postgraduate
colleges in the world, see:
Royal College of Art.

What is the Art Students League?

The Art Students League of New York, is one of the best art schools in America. Now regarded as a key institution of modern art, the League was founded in 1875 and is located in the same landmark building on West 57th Street that has been its home since it was erected in 1892. The League was set up in order to offer flexible, affordable classes in various types of art for students regardless of their financial means or technical background - an aim it maintains to this day.

During its 140-year history, the League has attracted a large number of important modern artists - both as instructors and students - and has made significant contributions to American art, notably to the Ashcan School of Painting (1900-1915), American Scene Painting (1925-45) and American Mid-West Regionalism (1930s), Abstract Expressionism (particularly the New York School), and American Minimal art (painting and sculpture).

Although the League offers students the opportunity to study full-time, it has never offered any set curriculum or any formal qualifications such as degree programs or grades, and there are no prerequisites for enrollment. Today, with a faculty of around 80 teachers, it runs more than 130 courses attended by some 2,500 students of all ages and skill levels. In addition, it offers a program of lectures, seminars and exhibitions throughout the year, presented by top contemporary artists. The League also provides an international residency program at its facility in Vytlacil, in upstate New York. The League also produces an inspirational and informative online journal on art-related issues, entitled LINEA. Originally a printed publication of the League, this Internet chronicle reveals how League students and instructors think and create.

Origins and History

The Art Students League was set up in 1875 by a group of New York artists - most of whom were students at the National Academy of Design in New York City. The decision to launch a new school was triggered by rumours of the temporary closure of the Academy due to financial difficulties. As it happened, the Academy did close the same year but reopened in 1877.

The League duly opened in a single classroom on the top floor of a building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 16th Street. Among its first teachers were Lemuel E. Wilmarth (1835-1918) - the former Director of the Academy School - Walter Shirlaw (1838-1919) and William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). They were followed by the realist portraitist Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), the gritty realist New Yorker Robert Henri (1865-1929), the Dublin-born sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), the painter, illustrator and etcher John Sloan (1871-1951), the Impressionists J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), John H. Twachtman (1853-1902) and Childe Hassam (1859-1935), as well as the sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931).

Unlike the Academy school, the League had no admission requirements and no fixed curriculum, other than a daily life class on figure drawing. On top of this refreshing informality, it employed far more progressive teaching methods based on the highly successful French atelier system of the nineteenth century. As a result, demand for places soared and by 1900 enrolment stood at almost a thousand. By this point the Art Students League was the most important art school in America, and its list of instructors (and alumni) has since featured many of the most illustrious 20th century painters and sculptors in the country.

In 1892, the League moved into its present headquarters building on 57th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh. An exhibition gallery was subsequently added, thanks to donations provided by George W. Vanderbilt.

In 1928 the American-Czech modernist painter Vaclav Vytlacil (1892-1984) began teaching at the League, where his pupils included Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), James Rosenquist (b.1933), Cy Twombly (1928-2011) and others. Later he also taught at the Minneapolis School of Art, University of California at Berkeley, and the California College of Arts and Crafts. In 1996, Vaclav's family donated his former home and studio to the League in order to create the Art Students League's "Vytlacil Campus". Situated in Sparkill, Rockland County, New York, the property comprises 15 acres of wooded grounds close to the Hudson River, about 30 minutes drive from Manhattan. Campus facilities today include: a restored residence (house, library and gallery), painting studios, sculpture workshops, a foundry, forging and welding facilities and a large ceramics kiln.

In 2007, as part of the League's ongoing role in preparing students for professional careers, it launched a new Apprenticeship program, designed to provide opportunities for advanced students to work with League instructors in their studios.


Art shows are an important element in the education system of the Art Students League of New York, that permit the showcasing of works by students and instructors. From January to May, the League's gallery features weekly shows of student exhibits. From June to December the gallery showcases award-winning student works and work by instructors, as well as thematic exhibitions drawing on examples from the League's permanent collection.

Famous League Instructors

Other well-known artists, other than those cited above, who have served as instructors at the Art Students League of New York, include: George Bellows (1882-1925), Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), Stuart Davis (1892-1964), Philip Guston (1913-80) and Hans Hofmann (1880-1966).

Famous League Alumni

Notable alumni from the Art Students League of New York include: Alexander Calder (1898-1976), Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), Helen Frankenthaler (b.1928), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-74), Clement Greenberg (1909-94), Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), Winslow Homer (1836-1910), Donald Judd (1928-94), Lee Krasner (1908-84), Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97), Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), Barnett Newman (1905-70), Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986), Jackson Pollock (1912-56), Man Ray (1890-1976), Frederic Remington (1861-1909), Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Mark Rothko (1903-70), Ben Shahn (1898-1969), David Smith (1906-1965), Tony Smith (1912-80), Robert Smithson (1938-1973), Frank Stella (b.1936), Clyfford Still (1904-1980) and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942).

Contact Information

The Art Students League of New York
215 West 57th Street (between Seventh Avenue and Broadway)
New York, NY 10019
Telephone: 212-247-4510
Fax: 212-541-7024

Office Hours
Monday-Friday: 8:30AM-8:30PM
Saturday-Sunday: 8:30AM–4:00PM
Closed: Sundays June–August

See: Rare Secondhand Art Books.

New York Art Venues

Among the best art museums in New York City are:

- Frick Collection
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
- Samuel R Guggenheim, New York
- Whitney Museum of American Art.


• For our main index, see: Homepage.

© All rights reserved.