Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942) was an American sculptor, art patron and collector, and founder in 1931 of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. She was a prominent social figure and hostess, who was born into the Vanderbilt family and married into the Whitney family.
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 sculptor.
She studied at the Art Students League of New York and then with Auguste Rodin in Paris. Eventually, she maintained art studios in Greenwich Village and in Passy, a fashionable Parisian neighborhood in the XVI arrondissement.
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. Then, in one of the many Manhattan properties she and her husband owned, Gertrude Whitney in 1914 established the Whitney Studio Club (8 West 8th Street in Greenwich Village) 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 after the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down her offer to contribute her collection.