The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts, founded in New York City as the National Academy of Design – known simply as the “National Academy” – is an honorary association of American artists founded in 1825 by Samuel F. B. Morse, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Cole, Martin E. Thompson, and others “to promote the fine arts in America through instruction and exhibition.” Its museum houses a public collection of over 7,000 works of American art from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
The Academy has had several homes over the years. Notable among them was a building built during 1863-1865, designed by architect F. B. Wight in Venetian Gothic style, which was modeled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Another locale was at West 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan. Since 1942 the academy has occupied a mansion that was the former home of sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer Milton Huntington at Fifth Avenue and Eighty-ninth Street. The school offers studio instruction, master classes, intensive critiques, various workshops, and lunchtime lectures. Scholarships are available. Members of the National Academy may be identified using the post-nominal “NA” (National Academician). One cannot apply for membership.
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 famous American Revolutionary War artist Colonel John Trumbull. Samuel F. B. Morse and other students set about forming “the drawing association” to meet several times each week for the study 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 the difference and maintain a single academy by appointing six of the artists from the association as directors of the American Academy, however, when four of the nominees were not elected, the frustrated artists resolved to form a new academy and the National Academy of Design was born.
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