13. School of Art

Grand Central School of art galleryThe Grand Central Art Galleries and School of Art in 1923. Image in public domain from the 1923 opening exhibition catalog, from the New York Art Resources Consortium and contributed by the Frick Art Reference Library.

Thanks to a starring role in the bestselling novel The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis, the lost Grand Central School of Art has returned to the limelight.  Between 1923 and 1944, the painters Edmund Greacen, Walter Leighton Clark, and John Singer Sargent founded and ran the Grand Central School of Art, occupying the sixth floor of the terminal’s east wing. Alongside these artists, Daniel Chester French, who designed the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, directed the school. In its first year, the school had over 400 students, and at its peak, it became one of the largest art schools in New York with 900 students.

According to a 1924 New York Times article, figures such as costume designer Helen Dryden (supposedly the highest-paid woman artist in the United States in the 1930s), sculptor Chester Beach, a muralist Dean Cornwell were among the school’s instructors. Arshile Gorky, an Armenian-American painter behind works like The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, joined as an instructor a few years later. Painter Harvey Dunn, best known for his painting The Prairie is My Garden, also became an instructor. The school also held summer sessions in Maine but closed in 1944 after 20 years of educating artists who would go on to win major awards like Willem de Kooning.