new york national academy of design

A Tale of Cinderella. Francis Luis Mora (Uruguayan-born American, 1874-1940). 

In 1904 Mora was voted an Associate member of the National Academy of Design, and was elected a full member in 1906, probably its first Hispanic member. Mora won numerous medals and awards within the New York artistic community, and in 1915 he won a gold medal at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco.

William Henry Johnson, Woman Ironing, 1944

William Henry Johnson (1901 - 1970) was an African-American artist born in South Carolina. He began his career as a student at the National Academy of Design in New York City, where he worked closely with Charles Webster Hawthorne. Johnson lived in Paris where he experienced French Expressionism and returned in the United States in the late 1920s. Johnson worked and lived in Scandanavia with his wife and experienced folk art. After returned in the United States in the late 1930s, Johnson found work at the Harlem Community Art Center in Harlem, New York City, New York where he worked as an art teacher as part of the Federal Art Project and Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1956, Johnson’s life’s work was almost destroyed when his guardian declared him unable to pay for storage. Instead, Helen Harriton, Mary Beattie Brady, and others arranged with the court to have Johnson’s belongings delivered to the Harmon Foundation - the foundation would use the works to advance interracial understanding and support African American achievements in the fine arts.

Image released into public domain.

Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
“The dream of the architect” (1840)
Oil on canvas
Located in the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio, United States

Created for New York architect Ithiel Town, Cole incorporated pieces of architecture from Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Gothic styles in various different parts of the painting. Cole finished the painting in only five weeks and showed it in the National Academy of Design annual exhibition that year. However, the painting was not well received by Ithiel, who refused to accept the painting because he claimed that it was “exclusively architectural.”


Lois Mailou Jones

Lois Mailou Jones (November 3, 1905 – June 9, 1998) was an artist who painted and influenced others during the Harlem Renaissance and beyond, during her long teaching and artistic career. Jones was the only African-American female painter of the 1930s and 1940s to achieve fame abroad, and the earliest whose subjects extend beyond the realm of portraiture. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts and is buried on Martha’s Vineyard in the Oak Bluffs Cemetery.

Her father Thomas Vreeland Jones was a building superintendent who later became a lawyer; her mother Carolyn Jones was a cosmetologist.

Jones’ parents encouraged her to draw and paint as a child in water color. During childhood her mother took her and her brother to Martha’s Vineyard where she became lifelong friends with novelist Dorothy West. She attended the High School of Practical Arts in Boston. Meanwhile she took Boston Museum of Fine Arts evening classes and worked as an apprentice in costume design. She held her first solo exhibition at the age of 17. From 1923 to 1927 she attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston studying design, taking night courses at the Boston Normal Art School. She also pursued graduate work at the Design Art School and Harvard University. She continued her education even after beginning work, attending classes at Columbia University and receiving her bachelor’s degree from Howard University in 1945, graduating magna cum laude.

In 1928 she was hired by Charlotte Hawkins Brown after some initial reservations, and founded the art department at Palmer Memorial Institute in ]. As a prep school teacher, she coached a basketball team, taught folk dancing, and played the piano for church services. Only one year later, she was recruited to join the art department at Howard University in Washington D.C., and remained as professor of design and watercolor painting until her retirement in 1977. While developing her own work as an artist, she was also known as an outstanding mentor.

In 1934 Jones met Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noel, who would become a prominent Haitian artist, while both were graduate students at Columbia University. They corresponded for almost twenty years before marrying in the south of France in 1953. Jones and her husband lived in Washington, D.C. and Haiti. They had no children. He died in 1982.

In the early 1930s Jones exhibited with the William E. Harmon Foundation and other institutions, produced plays and dramatic presentations and began study of masks from various cultures. In 1937 she received a fellowship to study in Paris at the Académie Julian. During one year’s time she produced over 30 watercolors. She returned to Howard University and began teaching watercolor painting. She said of her time in Paris:

The French were so inspiring. The people would stand and watch me and say ‘mademoiselle, you are so very talented. You are so wonderful.’ In other words, the color of my skin didn’t matter in Paris and that was one of the main reasons why I think I was encouraged and began to really think I was talented.

In 1938 she produced Les Fétiches (1938) a stunning, African inspired oil which is owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Jones’ Les Fétiches was instrumental in transitioning 'Négritude'—a distinctly francophone artistic phenomenon—from the predominately literary realm into the visual. Jones’ work provided an important visual link to Négritude authors including Aimé Césaire, Léon Damas, and Léopold Sédar Senghor. It was one of her best known works, and her first piece which combined traditional African forms with Western techniques and materials to create a vibrant and compelling work. She also completed Parisian Beggar Woman with text supplied by Langston Hughes.

Her main source of inspiration was Céline Marie Tabary, also a painter, whom she worked with for many years. Tabary submitted Jones’ paintings for consideration for jury prizes since works by African-American artists were not always accepted. Jones traveled extensively with Tabary, including to the South of France, and they frequently painted each other. They taught art together in the 1940s.

In the 1940s and early 1950s Jones exhibited at the Phillips Collection, Seattle Museum of Art, National Academy of Design, the Barnet Aden Gallery, Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University, Howard University, galleries in New York and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In 1952 Loïs Mailou Jones: Peintures 1937-1951, a collection of more than 100 reproductions of her French paintings, was published.

In 1954 Jones was a guest professor at Centre D'Art and Foyer des Artes Plastiques in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where the government invited her to paint Haitian people and landscapes. Her work became energized by the bright colors. She and her husband returned there during summers for the next several years, in addition to trips to France. There she completed “Peasant girl, Haiti” and also exhibited her work. In 1955 she unveiled portraits of the Haitian president and his wife commissioned by United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Jones’s numerous oils and watercolors inspired by Haiti are probably her most widely known works. In them her affinity for bright colors, her personal understanding of Cubism’s basic principles, and her search for a distinctly style reached an apogee. In many of her pieces one can see the influence of the Haitian culture, with its African influences, which reinvigorated the way she looked at the world. These include Ode to Kinshasa and Ubi Girl from Tai. Her work became more abstract and hard-edged, after her marriage to Pierre-Noel. Her impressionist techniques gave way to a spirited, richly patterned, and brilliantly colored style.

In 1962 she initiated Howard University’s first art student tour of France, including study at Académie de la Grande Chaumière and guided several more tours over the years. In the 1960s she exhibited at School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Cornell University, and galleries in France, New York and Washington, D.C.

In 1968 she documented work and interviews of contemporary Haitian artists for Howard University’s “The Black Visual Arts” research grant. And continued the project in 1969 and 1970, traveling to eleven African countries. Her report Contemporary African Art was published in 1970 and in 1971 she delivered 1000 slides and other materials to the University as fulfillment of the project. In 1973-74 she researched “Women artists of the Caribbean and Afro-American Artists.”

Her research inspired Jones to synthesize a body of designs and motifs that she combined in large, complex compositions. Jones’s return to African themes in her work of the past several decades coincided with the black expressionistic movement in the United States during the 1960s. Skillfully integrating aspects of African masks, figures, and textiles into her vibrant paintings, Jones continued to produce exciting new works at an astonishing rate of speed, even in her late eighties. In her nineties, Jones still painted. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton collected one of her island seascapes Breezy Day at Gay Head while they were in the White House.

Jones felt that her greatest contribution to the art world was “proof of the talent of black artists.” The African-American artist is important in the history of art and I have demonstrated it by working and painting here and all over the world.“ But her fondest wish was to be known as an "artist"—without labels like black artist, or woman artist. She has produced work that echoes her pride in her African roots and American ancestry.

Lois Mailou Jones’ work is in museums all over the world and valued by collectors. Her paintings grace the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Portrait Gallery, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the National Palace in Haiti, the National Museum of Afro-American Artists and many others.


Thomas Alexander Harrison     (1853-1930)

Thomas Alexander Harrison was born and raised in the Germantown area of Philadelphia. When he was a young man he spent six years working for the United States Coastal and Geodetic Society, for whom he surveyed the New England, Florida, and Pacific coastlines. This experience guided his interest in art, which began at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for a brief period in 1872, towards marine painting, and he would become well known for his horizontal wave seascapes.

After his Survey job ended in 1877, Harrison commenced his studies in earnest, starting with the San Francisco School of Design and ending at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. In 1881 he exhibited at the Paris Salon, and also became friends with Jules Bastien-Lepage. The latter introduced Harrison to plein-aire painting, which he took to immediately and was soon recognized as the leading artist at the colony of Pont-Avon in Brittany. Though he was frequently back in the States, and an active member of arts organizations in Philadelphia and New York, he maintained his ties to Paris—where he died in 1930.

The artist won numerous prizes across the United States and in Paris. Harrison’s works can be found in prestigious institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, IL; the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, TX; the Corcoran Gallery of Art and The White House in Washington, DC; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Academy of Design Museum in New York, NY; and the Musee D’Orsay in Paris.


Towards the end of Blake Edwards’s 1982 musical farce, Victor/Victoria, there is a short but memorable scene where Victor (Julie Andrews), now the celebrity toast of Paris, is in the midst of a gruelling photo-shoot with a flamboyant studio photographer. As the photographer issues a fusillade of fussy directions – “hold it”, “head up just a touch” – Victor appears tired and withdrawn. “Victor, darling,” chides the photographer with theatricalised exasperation, “do you think you could manage to look a little less…funereal?” “René, darling,” retorts Victor through gritted teeth, “why don’t you go suck an egg?!”

Plot-wise, this short scene serves to signal Victor’s increasing weariness with life as “a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman”; and, indeed, in the very next scene, the character confirms his decision to give up the charade and “announce to the world that I am really Victoria Grant”. However, the scene also works to convey extra-textual information in the form of its not-so-coded allusion to famed photographer Cecil Beaton and his real-world relations with star Julie Andrews.

Bedecked in straw fedora and silk cravat, and striking caricatural fey poses, the character of René is clearly patterned on Beaton. The actor playing the part, Paddy Ward, even bears a pronounced physical resemblance to the celebrated aesthete. Lest there be any doubt these similarities were less than fully intentional, in the special audio commentary recorded by Julie and Blake for the 2002 DVD release of Victor/Victoria (and also included on the recently released Blu-Ray), Julie confirms “that’s the Cecil Beaton character” when René appears on screen.

Beaton and Julie had of course worked together in the late-1950s during the Broadway and London runs of My Fair Lady. Beaton provided the award-winning costume design for the hit musical, and also functioned as de facto show photographer, taking copious production stills and portraits of the cast, as well as independent photoshoots for magazine features, fashion spreads and his own personal portfolio. Featured here is a brief selection of some of the hundreds of photographs that Beaton took of Julie during her My Fair Lady tenure. The shots demonstrate Beaton’s characteristic flair for elegantly styled portraiture and they number among the most visually striking images from the early years of Julie’s career. But the surface polish of the photographs belies what was by all accounts a less than easy collaboration.

In her 2008 autobiography Julie recalls Beaton as “a taskmaster” and admits to feeling “pretty intimidated by him at first” (192). She relates several unhappy encounters with the prickly artiste: almost fainting with fatigue during an arduous costume fitting and finding “Beaton was not sympathetic” (192); being told by him after a long photo session where Julie had “tried to give it my all” that “you are the most hopelessly un-photogenic person I have ever met” (192); or, most notoriously, having Beaton burst into her dressing room in a raging fury on the first night of My Fair Lady’s out-of-town tryouts because she inadvertently wore one of his hats the wrong way round,

“Beaton picked up the hat and slammed it onto my head. ‘Not that way, you silly bitch–this way!’ he snapped. I nearly burst into tears” (200).

It’s interesting to speculate on the source of Beaton’s orneriness with Julie. Though he had a reputation as a waspish old queen – Jean Cocteau famously nicknamed him “Malice in Wonderland” (Spencer, 31) – Beaton wasn’t usually quite so openly cruel to people’s faces, preferring to reserve the brunt of his barbs for the relative discretion of his diaries (Beaton, 2003). Certainly, Beaton and Julie were vastly different personalities. He the older urbane aesthete: cultured, world-weary, and haughty. She the fresh green ingenue: affable, unaffected, and sincere. It’s possibly why Beaton felt unsympathetic toward her and less inclined to restrain his acid tongue. 

For her part, Julie suggests that at least some of the tension in their relationship stemmed from Beaton’s peculiarly British insecurity over class and social standing. She writes:

“Beaton sort of got my goat. Because we were both British, I quickly picked up on something: he was grander than he had any right to be…Certainly, he acted like a snob.

I began to tease him a little, using my developing cockney accent to good effect when I felt he was being condescending or indifferent. And he liked it! I would glimpse the teeniest crack of a smile on his pursed lips and a slight twinkle in his eye when I deliberately flaunted a lower-class attitude. Eventually I believe we came to appreciate each other, and his glorious costumes made one forget everything else, anyway” (192-93).

It’s a reading that accords with other assessments of Beaton’s complex personality. Born into a comfortable but roundly middle class family – his maternal grandfather was a blacksmith – Beaton was insecure about his social background and feverishly aspirational from an early age (Vickers, 3ff). Enamoured of aristocratic high society, he fetishised the ancien regime world of pedigree, status, and luxury. The fact that that world had effectively vanished, even by the time of his birth, meant that Beaton “longed for acceptance by a society that only existed in his imagination” and so he set about recreating it in fantasy, using his art to “construct artificial Arcadias” of patrician glamour and old world prestige (Conrad, 65). It’s why Beaton proved so brilliant in conjuring the Edwardian idyll of My Fair Lady which he himself described as a “wish-fulfilling opportunity to re-create the world as I remembered it” (cited in Conrad, 65).

These anxieties over status even fed into Beaton’s professional life.  Though he found his earliest and most enduring fame as a society photographer, Beaton took scant pride in the fact, dismissing photography as little more than a trade.  He “hated to be described as a photographer” and sought desperately to make his mark as a ‘serious’ painter and playwright (Vickers, 585). “Being a photographer, beholden to publications and aristocratic or glamorous sitters,” writes Charles Spencer, “involved an element of servility” that only “heightened his inferiority complex and unease” (31). His waspish demeanour was at once a compensatory defense and an act of revenge. “[H]e genuflected to his subjects,” writes Peter Conrad, “while reserving the right to deride them” (64).

Whatever the reasons for his acerbity, there’s no denying that Beaton did well by Julie. His magnificent costumes turned her into the Fair Lady of Broadway while his talented lens brilliantly captured the transformation for posterity.  And the two eventually managed to reach an amicable respect with Julie warmly declaring not long after Beaton’s death, “It’s only now that I’ve come to appreciate his contribution and how amazingly talented he was” (Vickers, xxvi).

Mind, it still didn’t stop Julie getting a bit of her own back for the years of temperamental outbursts and catty put-downs when, via his thinly-veiled proxy in Victor/Victoria, she looks ‘Beaton’ dead in the eye and drily tells him, “why don’t you just go suck an egg?!”


Andrews, Julie. Home: A Memoir of My Early Years. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008.

Beaton, Cecil. The Unexpurgated Beaton: The Cecil Beaton Diaries As He Wrote Them, 1970-1980. Hugo Vickers, ed. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2003.

Conrad, Peter. “Beaton in Brillantia.” Beaton Portraits. Pepper, Terrence, ed. London: National Portrait Gallery, 2005.

Spencer. Charles. Cecil Beaton: Stage and Film Designs. London: Academy, 1994.

Vickers, Hugo. Cecil Beaton, The Authorised Biography. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985.

© 2016, Brett Farmer. All Rights Reserved

Girl on a Swing

Everett Shinn 

From Wiki:  "Everett Shinn (November 6, 1876 – May 1, 1953) was an American realist painter and member of the Ashcan School. He also exhibited with the short-lived group known as “The Eight,” who protested the restrictive exhibition policies of the powerful, conservative National Academy of Design. He is best known for his robust paintings of urban life in New York and London, a hallmark of Ashcan art, and for his theater and residential murals and interior-design projects. His style varied considerably over the years, from gritty and realistic to decorative and rococo.“