Gertrude Whitney (Vanderbilt)

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Gertrude Whitney (Vanderbilt)

Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Death: Died in New York, New York, United States
Cause of death: bacterial endocarditis
Place of Burial: Bronx, NY, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, II and Alice Claypoole Vanderbilt
Wife of Harry Payne Whitney
Mother of Flora Payne Whitney; Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and Barbara Whitney
Sister of Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt; William Henry Vanderbilt; Cornelius Vanderbilt III; Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I (RMS Lusitania victim); Reginald Vanderbilt and 2 others

Occupation: Sculptor, Patron of American art
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Gertrude Whitney (Vanderbilt)

Gertrude Vanderbilt

Born: 1875

Staten Island, Richmond, New York, USA

Died: 1942

Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, USA

Spouse 1

Harry Henry Whitney

Born: New York-Wealthy Sportsman, [country]

Died: [city], [county], New York, USA

Marriage: 25 Aug 1896 in Breakers, [county], Rhode Island, USA View Info

Children Sex Birth

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney M 20 Feb 1899 in Roslyn, Long Island, New York, USA


Spouse 2

Henry Payne Whitney

Born: 28 Apr 1872 in New York, [county], New York, USA

Died: Oct 1930 in Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, USA

Marriage: 25 Aug 1896 in Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island, USA View Info

Children Sex Birth

Alfred Whitney M

Flora Payne Whitney F 29 Jul 1897 in Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, USA

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney M 20 Feb 1899 in Roslyn, Long Island, New York, USA

Barbara Whitney F 20 Mar 1903 in [city], [county], New York, USA


Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

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Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, in Vogue magazine, 15 January 1917Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (January 9, 1875 – April 18, 1942) was born into the prominent United States Vanderbilt family and married into the prominent Whitney family.

Gertrude was born in New York City. She was the eldest surviving daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843-1899) and Alice Claypoole Gwynne (1852-1934) and a great-granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt.


1 Life of wealth

2 Influence in art

3 Public sculpture by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

4 Patriotism

5 Later life

6 Social Titles

6.1 Titles

Life of wealth

Gertrude Vanderbilt spent her summers in Newport, Rhode Island, at the family's mansion, The Breakers, where she kept up with the boys in all their rigorous sporting activities. Educated by private tutors and at the exclusive Brearley School in New York City, at age 21 she married the extremely wealthy sportsman Harry Payne Whitney (1872–1930).

A banker and investor, Whitney was the son of William C. Whitney, and his mother was the daughter of a Standard Oil Company magnate. Harry Whitney inherited a fortune in oil and tobacco as well as interests in banking. Gertrude and Harry Whitney had three children, Flora, Cornelius, and Barbara.

Influence in art

GertrudeVanderbilt Whitney, 1916, by Robert Henri.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 sculptress.

As such, she studied her craft at the Art Students League in New York City then with Auguste Rodin in Paris. Eventually, she maintained art studios in Greenwich Village and in Passy, a fashionable Parisian suburb. Her works received critical acclaim both in Europe and the United States.

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.

In 1914, in one of the many Manhattan properties she and her husband owned, Gertrude Whitney established the 'Whitney Studio Club' at 147 West Fourth St. 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, she decided to put the time and money into the museum after the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down her offer to contribute her twenty-five-year collection of modern art works.

Public sculpture by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

Gertrude Whitney sculpted the Christopher Columbus memorial lighthouse in Huelva, Spain. Her numerous United States works include:

"Fountain of El Dorado" – San Francisco, California (now in Lima, Peru);

"Aztec Fountain" - Washington, D. C.;

"Women's Titanic Memorial" - Washington, D. C.;

"William F. Cody Memorial" - Cody, Wyoming at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park;

"Victory Arch" - Madison Square, New York City

"Three Graces" McGill University lower campus Montreal, Quebec, commonly called the "Three Bares"

A marble replica of the head of the Titanic memorial was purchased by the Government of France for the Musée du Luxembourg.


During World War I, Gertrude Whitney dedicated a great deal of her time and money to various relief efforts, establishing and maintaining a hospital for wounded soldiers in Neuilly in the Seine-et-Marne département in France. Following the end of the War, she was involved in the creation of a number of commemorative sculptures.

Later life

In 1934, she was at the center of a highly publicized court battle with her sister-in-law, Gloria Morgan-Vanderbilt, for custody of her ten-year-old niece, Gloria Vanderbilt.

Gertrude Whitney died in 1942, aged 67, and was interred next to her husband in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York. Her daughter Flora Whitney-Miller assumed her mother's duties as head of the Whitney Museum.

In 1999, Gertrude Whitney's granddaughter, Flora Miller Biddle, published a family memoir titled The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made.

In the 1982 tele-film, Little Gloria...Happy At Last, Whitney was portrayed by actress Angela Lansbury, who earned an Emmy nomination for her performance.

Social Titles


1875-1896: Miss Gertrude Vanderbilt of the Breakers

1896-1930: Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney

1930-1942: Mrs. Gertrude Whitney

Retrieved from ""

Categories: 1875 births | 1942 deaths | Burials at Woodlawn Cemetery (The Bronx) | American art collectors | American philanthropists | American sculptors | American socialites | People from New York City | Vanderbilt family | Whitney family

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942)

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was the daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II


Gertrude Vanderbilt was born in 1875 to Cornelius Vanderbilt and his wife Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt. Gertrude was their eldest daughter; her mother's namesake and Gertrude's older sister died at age five the year before Gertrude was born. Gertrude idolized her older brothers William and Cornelius and imitated them. Gertrude longed to be a boy. She grew resentful and rebellious toward her parents when her younger brothers Alfred and Reginald were born.

As a youngster, Gertrude showed the quality of individuality. Her temperament went against the conception of what a young woman was supposed to be like. Gertrude was alert to all sense-data of life, the tiny details of shape, texture, and movement around her. She was exquisitely attuned to her internal sensations and feelings.

Gertrude's parents did not promote creativity or risk. She was pious, industrious, and charitable, but she was also passionate, and there was no room for that in the Vanderbilt household.

Gertrude spent her summers in Newport, Rhode Island, at a mansion called "The Breakers." There she gathered wild blackberries and picked strawberries in the fields. She climbed the rocks along the ocean, played tennis, and swam in the surf at Bailey's Beach.

Gertrude was married to Harry Payne Whitney on August 25, 1896. He was the son of William C. Whitney, a prominent attorney, and his mother was the daughter of a Standard Oil Company magnate. Gertrude and Harry had three children, Flora, Cornelius, and Barbara.

Gertrude had a passion for art, which she rediscovered on a trip to Europe in 1901. She longed to study sculpture from her mature perspective. This trip became a transformation for her, which made her a very different woman. Gertrude gained different feelings from the artwork she saw. She looked at the different aspects of her life and tried to figure out how to approach them. The trip made her become open-minded. She committed herself to sculpture. She became an advocate for art and opened up the way for the advancement of women in art.

Gertrude was a major patron of American artists. She organized an exhibition for the exclusive Colony Club. She founded the Whitney Museum.

Gertrude is also known for the custody battle for her niece, Gloria Laura Vanderbilt. Gloria was the daughter of Gertrude's youngest brother, Reginald. After Reginald's death, Gloria, at age 2 was heir to a trust fund totaling four million dollars. The court battle took place in 1934. Gertrude fought to obtain custody of Gloria on the grounds that Gloria's mother was an unfit guardian. After the trial, an agreement was reached for a year, but litigation continued after that. The court gave custody to Gertrude, but also rights to Gloria's mother. Gertrude won the appeals, but Gloria was growing and becoming independent.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney died on April 18, 1942 from bacterial endocarditis.

Further Resources for Studying Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney:

Vanderbilt Mansion Historic Site Museum Website from the National Parks Service

"The Breakers" Vanderbilt summer home

A Brief Chronology of the Whitney Museum from the Whitney Museum Library

Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, Fortune's children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt (New York: Morrow, c1989)

Clarice Stasz, The Vanderbilt Women: Dynasty Wealth, Glamour, and Tragedy (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991)

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Gertrude Whitney (Vanderbilt)'s Timeline

January 9, 1875
New York City, New York, USA
Age 21
February 20, 1899
Age 24
Roslyn, New York, USA
Age 27
April 18, 1942
Age 67
New York, New York, United States
Bronx, NY, USA