National Arts Club History

The mission of the National Arts Club is to stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts.

The National Arts Club was founded in 1898 by author and poet Charles De Kay, the literary and art critic for The New York Times. He together with a group of distinguished artists and patrons conceived of a gathering place to welcome artists of all genres as well as art lovers and patrons. At the turn of the 20th century American artists began to look to our own country rather than to Europe for inspiration, and the American art world was alive with energy. The newly-formed National Arts Club took residence in a mansion on 34th Street. American art had a new home.

Location & Landmarks

In 1906, when the Club outgrew that location, Spencer Trask, a financier, philanthropist and NAC Governor, helped the Club acquire the historic Samuel Tilden Mansion as its new home. The Tilden Mansion occupies 14 and 15 Gramercy Park South; both houses were built in the 1840s; and the original flat-front, iron-grilled brownstones matched the style of the homes still maintained on the west side of Gramercy Park. Samuel Tilden, the 25th Governor of New York, acquired 15 Gramercy Park South in 1863, purchased the adjacent house a few years later and gave the conjoined mansions a complete redesign. Tilden hired Calvert Vaux, a famed architect and one of the designers of Central Park, to modernize the façade with sandstone, bay windows and ornamentation in the Aesthetic Movement style. John LaFarge created stained glass panels for the interior of the man sion; and sculptors from the firm of Ellin and Kitson created elaborate fireplace surrounds, bookcases and doors. Glass master Donald MacDonald fashioned a unique stained glass dome for Tilden’s library that crowns the room where the bar is now located.

In 1966 New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission declared 15 Gramercy Park South a New York City Landmark; and in 1976 the Federal government designated the building a National Historic Landmark. 

In Good Company

The Club's Membership has included three U.S. Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Among the distinguished painters who have been members are Robert Henri, Frederic Remington, William Merritt Chase and Cecilia Beaux. Sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, Anna Hyatt Huntington and Paul Manship were all members as were composer Victor Herbert, conductor Walter Damrosch, photographer Alfred Stieglitz and architects Stanford White and George B. Post.

Renowned for its expansive American art collection, the Club owns works by Edward Potthast, Francis Mora, Ella Lamb, Charles Curran, Henry Watrous, Oscar Fehrer, Helen Turner and Will Barnet among many others. The National Arts Club is proud of its early recognition of innovative art media such as photography, film and digital media.

The National Arts Club Today

The National Arts Club hosts both members-only and public events honoring exemplary leaders in their chosen fields of art as well as exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, lectures and readings. Feature programs focus on visual arts, literature, film, architecture, fashion, photography and music.