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Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (January 9, 1875 - April 18, 1942) was born into the prominent United States Vanderbilt family and married into the prominent Whitney family.
Gertrude was born in New York City. She was the eldest surviving daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843-1899) and Alice Claypoole Gwynne (1852-1934) and a great-granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.
While visiting Europe in the early 1900s, Gertrude Whitney discovered the burgeoning art world of Montmartre and Montparnasse in France. What she saw encouraged her to pursue her creativity and become a sculptress.
As such, she studied her craft at the Art Students League in New York City then with Auguste Rodin in Paris. Eventually, she maintained art studios in Greenwich Village and in Passy, a fashionable Parisian suburb. Her works received critical acclaim both in Europe and the United States.
Her great wealth afforded her the opportunity to become a patron of the arts, but she also devoted herself to the advancement of women in art. She was the primary financial backer for the "International Composer's Guild," an organization created to promote the performance of modern music.
In 1914, in one of the many Manhattan properties she and her husband owned, Gertrude Whitney established the 'Whitney Studio Club' at 147 West Fourth St. as a facility where young artists could exhibit their works. The place would evolve to become her greatest legacy, the Whitney Museum of American Art. Founded in 1931, she decided to put the time and money into the museum after the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down her offer to contribute her twenty-five-year collection of modern art works.
During World War I, Gertrude Whitney dedicated a great deal of her time and money to various relief efforts, establishing and maintaining a hospital for wounded soldiers in Neuilly in the Seine-et-Marne département in France. Following the end of the War, she was involved in the creation of a number of commemorative sculptures.
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