Art Students League of New York

The Art Students League smells of oil paint.

The building is an absolute gem on 57th Street.

I have taken two Saturday classes there over the years. They’ve been taught by these wonderful  women of quite an advanced age, (one of whom Hilda Terry is no longer with us.) Last month’s watercolor class was taught by Dale Meyers who is still creating, teaching, thinking, and sharing. The other students’ work can be amazingly technically proficient or incredibly primitive (mine falls into the latter category).

It is exceedingly relaxing to be in a room where everyone is painting. My watercolors tend to be an embrace of negative space with a loose and splattered messy style. It’s hard to summarize. But fun to make.

I’m taking a Literature of Art Class with Ephraim Rubenstein on Thursday nights – he is so passionate, smart, provocative about the history of art. On Thursday we discussed the difference between Nude and Naked. We had read (or in my case, skimmed) Kenneth Clark’s “The Nude.” The Greeks, Rubenstein said, had a love of nakedness. Their gods were big and beautiful, not like a formless Yahweh.

We talked about how beauty in art gives one a shiver. That innately and physically we respond to art. We talked about philosophy — how when you think “bed” you have an ideal of “bed-ness” in mind, according to Artistotle. Is that “bedness” more ideal than the artist’s interpretation or an actual bed itself?

We discussed idealism. How, as Americans, we have a love/hate relationship with idealism. Is the nude who comes to model for art class a disappointment? Is he or she any less perfect or ideal than the Victoria Secret airbrushed model?


When I had inquired with the Eastern European woman security guard at the art school on Thursday whether class was cancelled due to snow. She told me that the school’s motto is Nulla Dies Sine Linea or “No Day Without a Line.”  “We are always open.”

The classes at the Art Students League are so cheap and so good. My daughers took a kids’ class with Martha Bloom. They just had a show in the gallery and the hallway outside of the cafeteria.

Yes, there’s a sweet, funky, good cafeteria and a tiny art shop in case you need supplies. The Art Students League has it all. Everyday.

One thought on “Art Students League of New York

  1. I enjoyed your commentary on the League. I too found it to be a place of refuge. I studied life drawing with Gustav Rehberger and Thomas Fogarty Jr. I have a Fogarty, one of his pastels of three dancing ladies. I purchased it from his Carnegie studio while between ballet classes I took at the DeMille studio. If only there could be league’s such as that everywhere as it is such a safe place to free the mind and soul and see what happens.

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