From the summer in Newport where they met in 1893, Howard Gardiner Cushing and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney would establish a lifelong love and friendship through the study and creation of their work in painting and sculpture. As young artists, Whitney and Cushing would travel abroad studying classical art in Europe where Whitney wrote, “No one I would rather see beautiful things with than this man. There is that about him which is not only sympathetic but strong and magnetic.”
After Cushing’s untimely death, Whitney, with a coterie of friends, commissioned the Cushing Memorial Gallery in Newport, designed by William Delano who based the design on Whitney’s Old Westbury Sculpture Studio in New York. It was in Whitney’s studio stairwell that Cushing painted his largest commission, a symbolist Ballet Russes influenced mural featuring Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in a Léon Bakst tunic and his wife and muse, Ethel Cochrane.
Fast forward 100 years, Whitney’s sculpture and Cushing’s paintings are being shown in adjacent galleries at the Newport Art Museum’s Morris and Cushing Galleries. Her dear friend Howard Gardiner Cushing’s paintings are on view along with the rarely seen before murals, purchased and rescued from obscurity by granddaughter, Alexandra Howard Cushing, and other members of the Cushing family after extensive restoration by Lowy Fine Art. The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney sculpture show was made possible in part by the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach.
The exhibition culminates with one of Newport’s most anticipated summer events, the Artists’ Ball, a tradition dating back to 1927. Over 300 guests attended this year’s Ball; many dressed for the occasion with a nod to the exhibit. Under a white tent an enormous hanging garden created a chandelier effect, backed by trees covered in sparkling lights while DJ Mad Marj Gubelmann worked her magic. Anne Baker, Charlie Burns, Monique Coleman and the Hon. Edmond Harmsworth served as this year’s Ball co-chairs.
Seth Watsky of Christie’s conducted an auction with lively bidding on two triptychs created by six artists for the benefit. A featured item was a New York City weekend culminating in a private visit and tour of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s Old Westbury Studio, where the famed murals of Howard Cushing were painted.
Many members of the Cushing family attended, including Alexandra Cushing Howard, Caterine Milinaire Cushing, Howard and Lucia Cushing, Nora Cushing, Johnny Cushing & Victoria Woodhull Cushing. Other notable guests were the museum’s Executive Director Nora Diedrich, Steve & Brooke Richter, Elizabeth Kahane, Paul & Diana Szapary, David Ford, Elizabeth & Bill Leatherman, Paul Miller, Stuart Sundlun, Irene Aitken, Anne Foxley, Nick & Alex Benson, Sheika Egan, Guy & Mary Van Pelt, Peter & Joanna de Neufville, Andrea Kass, Louis & Alexandra Rose.
Photographs by Nick Mele.