The National Art League is a non-profit organization of professional artists, serious students and those interested in participating in and supporting the advancement of the creative arts of drawing, painting and sculpture.
Foundation and Future
In the spring of 1930, Alice Chase Sullivan, daughter of William Merritt Chase and a painter in her own right, was chatting busily with her hairdresser when the topic turned to art. The hairdresser, it turned out, was an art enthusiast, and by the time Mrs. Chase Sullivan left his shop that day, he had offered to use his back room as a meeting place and a studio for local artists. Before long about fifteen friends – some painters, some commercial artists – were meeting weekly in “the studio”. They’d set up a study, paint for a few hours then critique each other’s work. Thus was born the Douglaston Art League.
Its first president was the sculptor, Trygve Hammer. In time, the Douglaston Art League would become the Art League of Long Island (see image on right), and then the National Art League. In the beginning, the group of artists would occasionally gather in someone’s home where they might have discussed art, heard poetry readings, or viewed a fashion show or an art demonstration. As the group attracted more and more members, larger spaces were needed for exhibitions. In 1935 the Douglaston Zion Church Parish Hall was used to present a memorial show for William Merritt Chase: nearly 50 of his paintings were displayed. By the mid-40s the membership had increased to over 100 and annual exhibitions were being held in Flushing.
As membership grew in the early 1930’s the dream of a permanent home for the League was born. In 1934, sufficient interest materialized and a building fund was established. But it wasn’t until 1955, when, led by a dynamic president, Louise Gibala, that the League acquired its current facility for the sum of $15,000. (See photo bottom right)
The new building allowed for the expansion of the League’s instructional program and, with its own exhibition space, for more shows. More shows allowed for more exhibiters and the League reached out to and attracted artists from around the nation. And so, in 1968, then League President, award-winning illustrator, Norman Nodel and the Board decided that the Art League of Long Island should be renamed. Since artists who lived neither on Long Island, nor on the East Coast, were now joining the League a more inclusive name was deemed appropriate: hence the National Art League.
The 13 Original Founders of the National Art League
Alice Chase: Daughter of American Artist, William Merritt Chase
Helen Chase: Daughter of American Artist, William Merritt Chase
Alma Ward Bristol
Lafayette Bersonnet: Architect
James Boudreau: Head of Pratt Institute
Aubrey G. Grantham: Architect, designed Zion Episcopal Church after fire of 1925
Trygve Hammer: International Sculptor
Earl Oliver Hurst: Illustrator, Cartoonist
Robert Robinson: Illustrator for Saturday Evening Post
First President: Trygve Hammer
The first President of the League was a Norwegian born and a trained sculptor. One of Mr. Hammer's sculptures in a Tenafly, NJ town Park has large bears to climb and has long been a focus for children. The monument has been dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt's memory and his love for the outdoors.
For additional information: Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society
Image of building facade when the League was known as the Art League of Long Island