Herbert Gehr, Juliana Force speaking with Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, c. 1936, Herbert Gehr/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.

The Newport Art Museum will welcome independent writer, critic, and art historian Avis Berman for a talk on Friday, May 17 at 5 pm entitled “Distilling the American Flavor: Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Juliana Force, and the Creation of the Whitney Museum.”

This fascinating lecture, in celebration of the Museum’s current exhibition, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney: Sculpture, will explore the lives and careers of two extraordinary women – Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942) and Juliana Rieser Force (1876-1948) – who transformed the history of American art. Their partnership not only brought about the formation of the Whitney Museum of American Art, but was responsible for the support of hundreds of artists who had nowhere else to turn.

Among those indebted to Force and Whitney were John Sloan, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton, and Isamu Noguchi. These artists, now celebrated, were unknown and uncredentialed when they benefited from the Whitney largesse. Indispensable to the making of the Whitney Museum are the entwined stories of Gertrude Whitney, the cloistered heiress who boldly created a new life for herself as an artist and art patron, and the less well-known personality of Juliana Force, who rose from poverty and obscurity to reinvent herself as a flamboyant bohemian who became the Whitney’s first director and a leader in her profession.

A pre-lecture reception will begin at 5 pm, followed by the lecture at 6 pm. Tickets are $15, or $10 for Museum members, and are available at newportartmuseum.org. Prior to the reception, at 4 pm, the Museum will offer a members-only guided tour of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney: Sculpture led by Senior Curator Francine Weiss. The guided tour, reception and lecture will take place at the Newport Art Museum, 76 Bellevue Avenue, Newport.

Avis Berman is an independent writer, critic, and art historian. She has written countless articles on painting, sculpture, photography, illustration, design, architecture, and the social history of the visual arts for a broad range of publications including The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Saturday Review, The Boston Book Review, American Art, ARTnews, The San Francisco Examiner, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Baltimore Sun, Art in America, Art & Antiques, House & Garden, and Architectural Digest.

In addition to authoring biographies on Hopper, Lichtenstein and Whistler, Berman is also the author of the acclaimed Rebels on Eighth Street: Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art (Atheneum); the first and only book on the history and influence of the Whitney Museum.

About the Newport Art Museum
Founded in 1912, the Newport Art Museum provides exceptional arts education, public programming, community outreach, and exhibitions of historic and contemporary art, which spark reflection, inspiration, discovery, and connection – to oneself, the community and the wider world. Over 3,500 fine art objects and important archives comprise the museum’s growing permanent collection. Operating from historically significant buildings, the museum is set within a beautiful park-like arts campus on Newport’s famed Bellevue Avenue. The Newport Art Museum is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.