National Academy of Design

Coordinates: 40°47′02″N 73°57′32″W / 40.784°N 73.959°W / 40.784; -73.959

National Academy of Design
National Academy of Design (48059131596).jpg
Current Building
Formation1863; 158 years ago (1863)
TypeHonorary organization, museum, and school
PurposeTo promote the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition
HeadquartersManhattan, New York City
Wendy Evans Joseph, NA

The National Academy of Design is an honorary association of American artists, founded in New York City in 1825 by Samuel Morse, Asher Durand, Thomas Cole, Martin E. Thompson, Charles Cushing Wright, Ithiel Town, and others "to promote the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition."[1] Membership is limited to 450 American artists and architects, who are elected by their peers on the basis of recognized excellence.


National Academy of Design, one of many Gothic Revival buildings modeled on the Doge's Palace in Venice, seen c. 1863–1865. This building was demolished in 1901.

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 painter John Trumbull.

Samuel Morse and other students set about forming "the drawing association", to meet several times each week for the study of 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 differences 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.[2]

Morse had been a student at the Royal Academy in London and emulated its structure and goals for the National Academy of Design. The mission of the academy, from its foundation, was to "promote the fine arts in America through exhibition and education."[3]

In 2015, the Academy struggled with financial hardship. In the next few years, it closed its museum, severed ties to its art school, and sold much of its art collection and two of its buildings. The academy re-calibrated its core mission to focus on its living members.[4]

According to the Academy its 450 National Academicians "are professional artists and architects who are elected to membership by their peers annually."[5]

Official names

After three years and some tentative names, in 1828 the academy found its longstanding name "National Academy of Design", under which it was known for one and a half centuries. In 1997, newly appointed director Annette Blaugrund rebranded the institution as the "National Academy Museum and School of Fine Art", to reflect "a new spirit of integration incorporating the association of artists, museum, and school", and to avoid confusion with the now differently understood term "design".[6] This change was reversed in 2017.[3]

  • 1825 The New York Drawing Association
  • 1826 The National Academy of The Arts of Design
  • 1828 The National Academy of Design
  • 1997 The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Art
  • 2017 The National Academy of Design


The Academy occupied several locations in Manhattan over the years. Notable among them was a building on Park Avenue and 23rd Street designed by architect P. B. Wight and built 1863–1865 in a Venetian Gothic style modeled on the Doge's Palace in Venice. Another location was at West 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.[7] From 1906 to 1941, the Academy occupied the American Fine Arts Society building at 215 West 57th Street.[8]

Since 1942 the academy has occupied a mansion at Fifth Avenue and Eighty-ninth Street,[9] the former home of sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and philanthropist Archer M. Huntington, who donated the house in 1940.[10]

Organization and activities

The National Academy School of Fine Arts

The academy is a professional honorary organization, with a school and a museum.

One cannot apply for membership, which since 1994, after many changes in numbers, is limited to 450 American artists and architects. Instead, members are elected by their peers on the basis of recognized excellence. Full members of the National Academy are identified by the post-nominal "NA" (National Academician), associates by "ANA".[11]

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.

As of November 2018 the academy's Board of Governors consists of 18 board members, with Bruce Fowle as President (since 2010) and James Siena as Chairman of the Abbey Council.[12] Maura Reilly serves as Executive Director since 2015.[13]

Notable instructors

Among the teaching staff were numerous artists, including Will Hicok Low, who taught from 1889 to 1892. Another was Charles Louis Hinton, whose long tenure started in 1901. The famous American poet William Cullen Bryant also gave lectures. Architect Alexander Jackson Davis taught at the academy. Painter Lemuel Wilmarth was the first full-time instructor.[14] Silas Dustin was a curator.[15]

Notable members

A few members in 1850 (L to R): Henry Kirke Brown, Henry Peters Gray and founding member Asher Brown Durand
Annual Reception at the National Academy of Design, New York, 1868, a wood engraving from a sketch by W. S. L. Jewett

Some of the Academy's better-known members include:

See also


  1. ^ "Charles Cushing Wright (1796-1854)". Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  2. ^ Dunlap, William (1918). A History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (Vol. 3). C. E. Goodspeed & Co. pp. 52–57. Retrieved February 17, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Historical Overview, National Academy of Design.
  4. ^ Allen, Brian T (January 5, 2019). "The National Academy of Design Makes a Triumphant Comeback". National Review. Retrieved March 19, 2020. It has always been an artist-run organization. Its exclusive, invite-only membership comprises many of the best artists in the country, and going forward it has decided to focus its resources and energy on serving them. This means promoting their achievements, helping them through grants, and producing a snappy online journal that’s fresh and focused.
  5. ^ National Academicians, National Academy of Design.
  6. ^ Annette Blaugrund as quoted in Traditional Fine Arts Organization, News: National Academy Clarifies Identity with Change of Name and New Visual Identity.
  7. ^ Cassell, Dewey, with Aaron Sultan and Mike Gartland. The Art of George Tuska (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005), ISBN 978-1-893905-40-5, p. 10
  8. ^ asllinea.org https://asllinea.org/american-fine-arts-society-building/. Retrieved December 6, 2020. Missing or empty |title=
  9. ^ "Art of Past Era to Be Exhibited; National Academy of Design Opens New Home Jan. 1". The New York Times. October 5, 1941. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  10. ^ The New York Times, January 11, 1998
  11. ^ Artist Membership, National Academy of Design
  12. ^ NAD Board
  13. ^ NAD, Biography of Reilly
  14. ^ History of the School Archived July 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Painting by Dustin". fineart.ha.com. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  16. ^ Board of Governors. "National Academicians". The National Academy. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  17. ^ Erin Corley (2007). "American Watercolor Society records, 1867-1977, bulk 1950-1970". Archives of American Art Oral History Program. Retrieved June 17, 2011.

External links

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