National Association of Portrait Painters
The National Association of Portrait Painters was established in 1912 as “an American movement for the sake of the art of portraiture by American artists.” (1) The club’s founder was Samuel Montgomery Roosevelt (1858−1920), who had acquired considerable wealth as a wine merchant. He was also an acclaimed athlete, host of extravagant dinner parties (2), and leading portrait painter of the time (including this self-portrait).
Other artists who joined the Association included George Bellows, William Merritt Chase, Brenetta Herman Crawford, Robert Henri, George Luks, and J. Alden Weir. The society’s members met at the headquarters at 14 West Twenty-ninth Street, and held exhibitions once a year. The annual exhibitions toured around the country, leaving from New York and traveling to places such as Rochester, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Chicago. The content of these exhibitions sometimes varied depending on the location, and comparison of the individual catalogs for these displays reflects these discrepancies. The exhibitions greatly enhanced the group’s profile,and gave their art a national platform.
Annual exhibitions were accompanied by large catalogs, replete with advertisements, illustrations, and comprehensive checklists. The checklists included small photographs of the artists next to the titles of their work. This popular section allowed readers to see both images of the artists and a sample of their work.
The charitable spirit of the group was evident in its decision to donate the admission proceeds from a 1915 exhibition to the wives and children of French soldiers. (3)
1. The American Art Directory. Vol. 10, p. 148.
2. Two examples highlighted in The New York Times are titled, “Roosevelt Party Dines on Roast Lion,” from January 21, 1917, and “S. M. Roosevelt is Host,” from April 18, 1919.
3. “Coming Portrait Show.” American Art News. Vol. 13, no. 16. January 23, 1915, p. 1.