January 2016 Back

Traditional stained glass windows were made with a narrative motive in mind:  their purpose was to tell a story.  Chanler’s intention, however, was more abstract than illustrative – he preferred to exploit the formal possibilities of line, color, texture, and shape, and no overt story or sentiment is discernible. His stained glass is a paean to fantasy and energy and an anthem to skilled craftsmanship at its highest levels.  Yet Chanler took care to keep the windows’ destination – Whitney’s Greenwich Village studio – firmly in mind when conceiving his themes. He relied on the viewer’s knowledge that stained glass windows archetypally functioned as a vehicle for religious teaching, but Chanler’s sacred value is the expansiveness of the artistic imagination.  In the stained glass – and indeed, in the entire studio environment that he created -- Chanler celebrates and embodies a secular vision that he thought would continue to inspire Whitney in her own art and philanthropy.   That vision explored uneasy depths rather than trite certitude; for Chanler to offer such an adventurous conception meant that he possessed and retained his patron’s absolute trust.  To understand the stained glass windows Chanler designed for Whitney, it is essential to first understand their shared history.  The backstory of the commission is the growth of the professional and personal relationship between these two rebellious spirits, who each slipped the bonds of conventional expectations and acted on the results


Robert Winthrop Chanler (1872-1930; fig. 1) was a scion of the Dutch patroons who had first settled New York State and the English who followed them.  Descended from Livingstons, Winthrops, and Stuyvesants and an heir to part of the Astor fortune, Chanler grew up on an estate on the Hudson River, but he had no intention of settling into a proper life of an old-guard New Yorker. [1]  Impulsive and defiant of authority as a boy, Chanler was packed off to Europe in 1889 to live with watchful relatives who were unsuccessful in controlling his interest in wine, women, and the high life. Later that year he moved on to Rome to study art, and later traveled to Florence, Paris, London, and Germany.  Chanler settled in Paris in 1893, which was his base for roughly a decade before he returned to New York in 1902 briefly and 1905 permanently. [2] Serious education and enormous artistic productivity coexisted with rowdy dissipation, behaviors he juggled for the rest of his life. 

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942; fig. 2) was also part of the American elite. [3]  She was a great-granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad and shipping tycoon, and the heiress to a fortune so vast that it dwarfed Chanler’s.  In 1896 she married Harry Payne Whitney (1872-1930), a sportsman who also came from great wealth:  her future as a socialite seemed assured.  With a fortune of at least one-hundred-million dollars at her fingertips, Whitney could and did enjoy houses, furs, jewels, and travel in the grand manner. But she grew dissatisfied with a life of spending and entertaining as ends in themselves, and by the late 1890s she was determined to reshape her life and find a more fulfilling identity.  That identity was as an artist and art patron, and Robert Chanler was crucial to encouraging and supporting her.  To Whitney, the ribald, profane Chanler represented an uproar of life.  She thought of him as “a kind of Walt Whitman,” [4] an avatar of personal liberation, embodying multitudes and rejoicing in his contradictions. He radiated the sensuality that she had grown up learning to suppress, and because he was from the same social sphere, he could empathize with the obstacles that lay in her path to freedom. The two met in 1905, and on April 2, 1906, she wrote in her diary that Chanler “says live—live—get all you can out life and he wishes the best of all things. ‘I would like to see you go to the Devil’ were his words and instead of being shocked and reproving him I merely smile ….” [5]  Yet two days later, after seeing an exhibition of Chanler’s work, Whitney noted the caliber of his art and the new studio he had taken, writing, “He has a faculty for getting the best, which I admire….” [6]  Already established as a painter of decorative screens and murals, Chanler had shown in Paris in the 1905 Salon d’Automne – the landmark exhibition in which the Fauves made their debut – and one of his screens was later acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg. [7]

By early 1907 Whitney was a trained artist and she leased a stable at 19 Macdougal Alley in Greenwich Village [fig. 3] --  light years away in thought and attitude from the Fifth Avenue mansion where she and her husband lived. Whitney converted this humble stable and hayloft into a studio for working and for escaping from her uptown life.  The move was a key passage in her general declaration of independence, and it signaled a craving for experience. During the spring of 1907, she and Chanler became particularly close, as they were colleagues working almost in tandem.  They were each awarded a commission – his for a mural and hers for a fountain— from the Colony Club, one of the first private women’s clubs in America, which was about to open at East 30th Street and Madison Avenue.  Whitney also organized an exhibition for the Club, and some of her choices predicted the courageous move she made in February 1908 when she went to the Macbeth Galleries for the preview of what we now recognize as an historic event -- the first and only exhibition of The Eight.  Out of the seven paintings sold from the show, Whitney bought four of them. As John Sloan said, "At that time, to buy such unfashionable pictures was almost as revolutionary as painting them." [8]  As such, these purchases represented a significant step in the context of Gertrude's own self-realization.  By now, both she and Chanler had something in common other than their social status and artistic vocation:  both of them had broken the mold before the mold broke them. 


Chanler’s licentious bohemianism amused Whitney—she was now his blasé equal in knowledge and sophistication—yet she valued him as an artist, continuing to admire his work.  In 1910 she hired the architect William Adams Delano to design a studio on the grounds of her country estate in Old Westbury, New York.  Delano built an exquisite Italianate marble pavilion [fig. 4], and Whitney commissioned several artists, including Chanler, to supply the interior decorations, and his were finished by 1912. 

Chanler created two decorative schemes. The first was for Whitney’s bathroom, which he painted as an undersea grotto filled with fish and other marine creatures – a motif that he would take up again in several of the stained glass windows in the Macdougal Alley studio six years later.  The second was a group of murals for Whitney’s bedroom, which the artist later likened to “seventeenth-century Savonnerie tapestries.” [9] Executed in black and white, the paintings are of battle and court scenes in deep perspective that seem more indebted to Paolo Uccello’s fifteenth-century triptych, The Battle of San Romano, whose panels Chanler would have seen in the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence, the Louvre, and the National Gallery in London.  Perhaps the most revelatory aspect of this commission was that Whitney was liberated enough to accept military subject matter, even if it played out as a heraldic pageant, as a suitable motif for bedroom décor.  Whitney also bought a 1913 mural panel from Chanler for the Old Westbury studio titled Flames [fig. 5].  Foreshadowing Chanler’s embellishment of the fireplace in Whitney’s Macdougal Alley studio [fig. 6], which dominated the living space, Flames is a stylized rendering of a massive conflagration in which human beings and demonic creatures are consumed by a blazing fire that shoots to the top of the panel and spreads across its perimeters.  Ivan Narodny, Chanler’s secretary and the author of an early book on the artist, reported that Flames was an allegory of “a sacred fire, and of human passions” suggesting that “the subconscious desires of man’s ego to absorb all the pleasures of the world” and “[i]n doing so it destroys itself.” [10] As with her acceptance of the bedroom murals, Whitney’s purchase of Flames as well as another macabre screen called The Dance of Death announced that she would embrace themes that other clients might reject and that Chanler could unleash the most fantastical aspects of his imagination when planning something for her.  Curiously, in reflecting on the murals that the artist Howard Gardiner Cushing painted for the upstairs hall in the Long Island studio and the impact of the exotic decorations in the building in general, Whitney prophesied the general appearance and effect of the stained glass windows of 1918.  As she wrote in her diary in 1912, “it is all modern and strange and links the old and the new, just as all beautiful things are linked, Chinese and Gothic and – life.” [11]

There was a definite element of eleemosynary assistance in Whitney’s engaging Chanler for the Old Westbury project, because in 1911-1912 Chanler may well have needed money.  In 1911 he leased the double house at 147 East 19th Street that would be his Manhattan home for the rest of his life. Moreover, in June 1910, he had married for the second time. (His unhappy first marriage, to a socially appropriate woman in 1893, produced two daughters and ended in divorce in 1907.) He was besotted with the glamorous opera star Lina Cavalieri, but the romance only lasted as long as the honeymoon; their acrimonious and costly divorce was not finalized until June 1912. For the exuberantly extravagant Chanler, whose day- and week-long parties were the stuff of legend, the commission may have provided much-needed living expenses as much as it did fruitful employment.  Chanler’s inheritance was held in trust, evidently doled out in increments, and his access to funds was limited. Chanler would later remind Whitney that he was as grateful to her for restoring his artistic confidence as for replenishing his pocketbook: “It is thanks to you that I pulled myself out of the mud I had fallen in by my terrible alliance with Cavalieri, you came and gave me work & showed faith in me.” [12] He was apparently strapped for money again in 1918 when Whitney engaged him to transform the Macdougal Alley studio – he addressed her as “Dear Patronne” in his letters, and in one of them he confided that “without your financial aid I should have had to close shop and be left outside in the cold.” Although he had recently inherited $200,000.00, he could not receive any of it “until the war is over & the estate is settled.” [13]


After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, it was less and less possible for Gertrude Whitney to spend time in France, where she had established a studio in Paris.  During the much of the year, her base was Manhattan, and the simple accommodations of 19 Macdougal Alley needed improving, especially her private living area there.  In early 1918, [14] she asked Chanler to create what can only be called an entire aesthetic environment that would surround her in the large double-height room where she lived and entertained. He took complete charge of the task, and Gertrude’s trust enkindled his imagination. He followed no orthodoxies, nor was any creative impulse held in check, yet every aspect of his design is unified and coherently relates to every other part. 

The focal point of the room is a twenty-two-foot-high floor-to-ceiling sculpted bronze and plaster fireplace decoration that consists of bas-relief tongues of flames leaping out of the hearth and wall and up to the ceiling. [15]  As discussed, the treatment of the fireplace is an enlargement and expansion of Flames, which Whitney already owned.  The top of the fireplace blends into an equally active plaster ceiling from which animals, fish, birds, mermaids, and grotesques modeled in low relief swim, fly, dance, and float in vivid profusion from a central image of a sun.  However, unlike the scene in Flames, no men or beasts are burnt up in the fire, and the sensation is euphoric rather than destructive.  It is clear that in this version of a blaze, fire stands for Promethean inspiration and creative metamorphosis. When the flames touch the ceiling, they are absorbed by the sun and transmuted into the panoply of creatures seen spinning through the expanse of the celestial ceiling, taking life and energy from the light.

Chanler carried on the theme of the heavens in a dynamic screen for this room variously called Firmament, Astrology Screen, and Dance of the Planets [16] that showed Saturn, Jupiter, Earth, bursts of shooting stars, and constellations. It may have been set at the entrance of the studio’s living space [fig. 7] to separate what was publicly visible from Whitney’s private sanctuary. The kaleidoscopic view of the cosmos would have amplified the mood of a vast and enchanted view of the universe.

To add even more color and mystery to this romantic setting, Chanler transformed the seven formerly plain windows on the north and south sides of the studio by designing a different stained glass panel for each of them.  The paradox of exquisite stained glass windows installed in a modest stable building would not have fazed Whitney, who grew up in a mansion boasting superb stained glass by its first American master.    

The craft of stained glass was revived in the United States in the mid-1870s, when the painter John La Farge began designing windows and invented opalescent (streaked) glass. [17]  His first successful window, created in 1878, was an artistic sensation, and La Farge was inundated with commissions, including two from members of the Vanderbilt family, who were among the first to have artistic stained glass installed in their houses.

Between 1879 and 1882, Gertrude Vanderbilt’s father, uncle, and grandfather each built an enormous house on Fifth Avenue, and her father and grandfather commissioned important stained glass work from La Farge. The young girl grew up with La Farge’s stained glass as a matter of course and accepted its presence as a normal component of domestic living; inhabiting the social circles that she did, she also would have visited houses decorated with brilliant windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  These two artists were leaders of the revival of stained glass in America, for both residential and ecclesiastical settings.

That said, Chanler chose not to follow in the vein of La Farge and Tiffany for Whitney’s stained glass ensemble. He did not use the opalescent glass for which the two were so famous, nor did he create sweetly undulating landscapes or trellised bowers of flowers, plants, and birds.  Instead, Chanler introduced pulsating rhythms and a vibrant expressionism – his was a flamboyant Dionysism without parallel in stained glass. This is not to say that he lacked powerful historical sources and visual traditions of his own. Although Chanler’s prescription for avoiding a stuffy life was all-out carousing, his excesses never meant that he was careless in his aesthetic standards or uneducated in his field.  While Chanler lived in Europe, he assembled a prodigious library that he productively scavenged for images.  He owned hundreds of illustrated volumes on painting, sculpture, architecture, historical interiors, tapestries, screens, costume, natural history, voyages of discovery, flowers, insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and mythological creatures. [18] He also had several books on stained glass that were considered bibles within the profession, and monographs devoted to the cathedrals of Chartres and Bourges, both bywords for sublime stained glass.  It is impossible to believe that Chanler, who lived in Paris for nearly a decade and visited France often after his return to the United States, would not have seen Chartres with his own eyes. Similarly, he would have been familiar with the superb stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Chanler, who had painted a series of French cathedrals, including Bourges and Amiens, in 1910, [19] had seen the best of medieval stained glass and was ready to adapt what he needed for his own idiosyncratic idiom. 

For Chanler, replacing ordinary window panes with stained glass may have been the most adventurous aspect of the environment he created for Whitney because he had never worked in that medium before.  He would have been involved in a new kind of collaboration.  Chanler was responsible for a detailed composition (the “sketch”) drawn to scale for each window, and for determining the colors and lines. The glass artisans he worked with would then enlarge the sketch into a full-size rendering (the “cartoon”) that would be used to establish the pattern of lead strips, the color scheme, and the size and shape of each piece of glass, all of which were hand-blown.  The glaziers would assemble the glass and lead and cement them into the frame; under Chanler’s supervision, they would paint and etch the glass to add depth and increase its transparency.  (Vitreous paint can be brushed on to a piece of glass and fired, and acid can be applied to the colored surface layer of the glass to reveal its uncolored base.)  The glass firm that fabricated the Whitney commission with Chanler has not yet been identified, which is unfortunate, because the workers were artisans of high accomplishment. [20]

Chanler established a dialogue between the windows and the rest of the interior by continuing the motifs he had devised for the fireplace and the screen: the heavens, the marine world, and their natural and mythological inhabitants.  Chanler’s seven windows are divisible into two groups, distinguished by formal and thematic elements, but both are extended flights of fancy.  The first group, consisting of four designs, is broadly painted and rife with a miscellany of fish, birds, snakes, and somewhat Dantean grotesques. Their lavish reds, oranges, greens, yellows, violets, and blues are clear and deeply saturated.  The four panels were placed two over two on the south wall of the studio facing Macdougal Alley; Chanler may created larger and more legible images for these designs because two of the panels were installed close to the ceiling and well above eye level. These windows look as if they had been imported from a sorcerer’s cave, but the more eccentric animals and figures, such as bats, grotesques, and small devils, can be traced back to stone carvings and images in medieval windows. (It is interesting to note that Chanler signed and dated the window commission in Gothic lettering [fig 8]).  Yet many of the animals Chanler portrayed had benefited from close observation – the artist was notorious for the menagerie he had in his house on East 19th Street.  He kept monkeys, ravens, and toucans, as well as fresh-water aquaria stocked with gold fish, tropical fish, seahorses, eels, frogs, and turtles. [21] The second group of three windows is notable for its overwhelming use of intense blue in both the background and foreground. The compositions are interlaced with planets and stars as well as references to the depths of the ocean and marine life—Chanler seems to be conducting an underwater tour, lit by the cosmos.  These windows were installed in a row on the north wall of Whitney’s studio.  The cobalt and ultramarine blues employed are Chanler’s principal formal homage to the great Gothic windows of Europe, in particular the famous sapphire glass of Chartres, Bourges, and Sainte-Chapelle.  The same astral images embedded in the window panels can be found in the screen and the fireplace designed for the studio.

None of the seven stained glass panels that Chanler designed [22] were titled by him, but for clarity’s sake, I have titled and will refer to the two window panels that remained in Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s family and which are the focus of the rest of this discussion as “Medusa” [fig. 9]and “Undersea and Sky” [fig. 10 ].  The Medusa panel, named after its most prominent image, is one of the four south windows in the first group.  Undersea and Sky, named after its scenic atmosphere, is one of three north windows in the second group. 

The Undersea and Sky panel radiates the impression of looking into an underworld that seems veiled by soft watery depths.  The illusion of indistinctness was accomplished by extensive acid etching and by plating.  The acid etching provided multiple textures and subtle surface effects. Plating is a process of layering glass, lining up two or more pieces of the same shape, one behind the other, and leading them together. The technique adds shadows, zones of space, and depth of color to the picture plane, and it helps the designer to accent or tone down a line or hue as if manipulating a brush.  Because each image in the north windows is broken up into more component parts than the ones in the south wall, there are more lead joints visible in Undersea and Sky than in Medusa. 

An illustration of the sketch that Chanler designed for the Undersea and Sky window survives (fig. 11), [23] and it reveals that Chanler’s original concern was line, as long it as was inflected by a sinuous, swirling, non-stop rhythm that hurried the viewer’s eye upward.  The emphatically linear forms of the dragon, spider and squid forms energize the composition. They are relentlessly vertical, yet their claws, legs, and tentacles bend into complex arabesques entwined with Saturn and other planetary spheres. A direct precedent for the kinetic possibilities that Chanler was to exploit in the 1918 windows was the reverse side of the Firmament or Astrological Screen, which showed gigantic squids locked in combat. [24]  It was a scene out of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – a book that Chanler had in his library.  In the Whitney commission, he was able to pursue that idea further, but the soft acid-wash on the glass’s surface neutralizes the disturbing qualities of these imaginary beasts. Elemental forces are tamed by the talent of the glass artisans, supremely at home in their medium, translating Chanler’s aesthetic wishes into paint and leading.

Chanler was immensely aware of the mythic and cultural vibrations of his symbolism and packed as many of them into each panel as he could, perhaps imagining that Whitney, his audience of one, would contemplate his windows at her leisure and tease out their meanings.  After all, the private realm of her studio was made for the express purpose of contemplating subjective states of feeling. The spider at the top of the panel can be taken as an emblem of creativity because it weaves a web. In many myths, the moon is depicted as a giant spider, and the link to the moon is a further connection to imagination and fantasy. [25]  The dragon, a primordial symbol in almost all cultures, certainly appealed to Chanler for its leaping movement, but also for the contrary positions it occupies in different civilizations. In Western society, a dragon is something to conquer – for the hero to triumph, it must be slain. In China, the dragon connotes imperial power and vigilance, guarding temples and treasure; most potently, it symbolizes “rhythmic life.” [26]

The Medusa window has an even more obvious rhythm, and it is bolder in all ways than the Undersea and Sky panel  – in palette, in imagery, and in mood. Nothing is veiled or clouded. The reason for the increased chromatic vivacity and overall size of the forms in this window (as well as the other three that were installed in the south wall of the studio) lies in the original architectural setting. Whereas the north windows faced an inner courtyard with a fairly constant light level, the south windows faced the street (Macdougal Alley) and were subject to stronger light behind them and more variable atmospheric conditions. The color harmony of red, green, violet, blue, violet, yellow, and brown is so audacious that it is almost dissonant, but a greater luminosity was necessary to match the light flooding through the glass.  In addition, the south windows had to compete with the vermillion flames of the fireplace, which is located in the southwest corner of the studio. The glowing colors of the palette contribute to the hallucinatory, almost hypnotic impact of this panel, in which many of the faces and forms seem to jump out of the framework at the viewer.

The window is dominated by three images – a crowned dragon at the base, a grotesque head in the center, and the profiled head of Medusa, with her hair composed of hissing venomous snakes.  There is also a subsidiary image of a lion in between the dragon and the grotesque head and, in formal counterpoint to the vertical row of heads and faces, thick plant and weed forms fill out the rest of the composition, moving sideways and upwards. Medusa is generally considered a monster, a winged woman whose face was so hideous that viewing it would turn a man to stone.  It is one of the most accessible symbols Chanler employed in the windows, because the image is a commonplace in Western art, from Greek and Roman mosaics and statuary to well into the twentieth century.  The grotesque head is another staple of medieval and Renaissance art – Leonardo da Vinci drew grotesque heads in his notebooks -- and Chanler could be extrapolating from the visages of the famous gargoyles on the roofs of Notre Dame and other Gothic cathedrals. Like the dragon, the grotesque was supposed to frighten off evil spirits.  As with so many other symbols in Chanler’s artistic vocabulary, even these turbulent images have positive and negative connotations.  The liveliest-looking monster, the flame-spewing lizard with a crown on its head, has a royal pedigree, further linking it to French art and history.  The crowned salamander was the emblem of King Francois I of France (r. 1515-1531) and appears frequently in court decorations of that period. Chanler would have been familiar with the connection through his many books on French art and décor and his own residence in France. [27] The salamander was considered immune to fire, and thus symbolized endurance and strength; its stylized movement through the composition was a means of organizing a complex of lines and patterns.

The Medusa panel flirts with a walk on the wild side, as if Chanler were exploring the darker recesses of the human mind. The artist was a citizen of a Freudian age, and in this window he probes the subconscious. The murky underwater depths he was so fond of portraying was one analogue for the psyche and the hidden nature of things; the metamorphoses of humans and animals into supernatural beings was another. The sense of the occult that haunts this and other panels made for the south side of the studio may be reflective of  Chanler’s own reality in early 1918.  He was ready to try anything, welcome anyone, and his circle of acquaintances encompassed socialites and bohemians and ne’er-do-wells and felons.  During the time Chanler was creating the stained glass windows, one of his guests was Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), [28] a writer, a painter, a ceremonial magician, an infamous specialist in occult rituals, and a self-styled prophet of his own religion. Crowley, an Englishman, had washed up in the United States in 1914, propagandizing for free love, recreational drug use, and the German cause.  After traveling around the country, he moved to New York in 1918, where he joined the revels on East 19th Street. Between heroin and alcohol and “sex magick” practices he demanded from both sexes, Crowley was even more of a libertine than Chanler, but his controversial presence may have been a perverse source of inspiration for the mildly diabolical nature of the Medusa window. [29]

No matter how esoteric the forms or subterranean the symbolism, Chanler’s stained glass for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was a notable achievement.  Like the medieval craftsman, Chanler went beyond the ordinary range of human experience, but he substituted the changes rung on the artist’s fertile imagination for the omnipotence of a Christian deity.  He successfully inserted his designs into an unlikely architectural framework, and their related tonal harmonies tempered and enhanced each other.  The palette and imagery of the stained glass blended with the other decorative elements in Whitney’s studio for a powerful visual effect.  We can only wonder what the studio ceiling, fireplace, walls, and interior space must have looked like with sunlight blazing through those radiant windows. In 1922 Ivan Narodny characterized Chanler as a “hyperbolist of the Classic Chinese, Byzantine, and Gothic periods, mixed with a note of his native soil.” [30] But Gertrude Whitney summed up the essence of Chanler’s art with greater astuteness ten years earlier when she mused, “modern and strange and links the old and the new, just as all beautiful things are linked, Chinese and Gothic and – life.”

© Copyright 2015 Avis Berman.  All Rights Reserved

1 For an excellent summary of Robert Chanler’s life and work, see Betsy Fahlman, “Robert Winthrop Chanler;  Flamboyant American Modernist,” Southeastern College Art Conference Review, vol. 16, no. 3 (2013): 23-310, and “Robert Winthrop Chanler: Reclaiming an American Modernist,” in Robert Winthrop Chanler: Discovering the Fantastic (New York:  Monacelli Press, 2016), in press. Unless otherwise stated, all biographical information on Chanler’s early life is drawn from Dr. Fahlman’s articles. I am indebted to her for her generous help in preparing this essay.

2 Christian Brinton, The Robert Winthrop Chanler Exhibition (New York:  Chanler Studios, 1922), n.p.

3 For information on Getrude Vanderbilt Whitney, three basic sources are B. H. Friedman, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1978), Avis Berman, Rebels on Eighth Street:  Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York:  Atheneum, 1990), and Janis Conner and Joel Rosenkranz, Rediscoveries in American Sculpture: Studio Works, 1893-1939 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 1989).

4 Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (GVW), diary entry, April 2, 1906, Gertrude Vanderiblt Whitney Papers (GVWP), Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (AAA), microfilm reel 2361.

5 GVW, diary entry, April 2, 1906, GVWP, AAA, reel 2370.

6 GVW, diary entry, April 4, 1906, GVWP, AAA, reel 2370.

7 Brinton, n.p.

8 John Sloan, quoted in Juliana Force and American Art (New York:  Whitney Museum of American Art, 1949), p. 14.

9 Quoted in Henry Tyrrell, “Bob Chanler’s Creepy Art,” San Francisco Call, March 9, 1913, clipping in Robert Winthrop Chanler scrapbook, AAA, reel 4131. 

10 Ivan Narodny, The Art of Robert Winthrop Chanler (New York:  Roerich Museum Press, 1931), p. 23

11 GVW, diary entry, March 17-19 [1912], quoted in B.H. Friedman, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, p. 303.

12 Robert Winthrop Chanler (RWC), undated letter [early 1918] to GVW, GVW, AAA, reel 2361.

13 RWC, undated letter to GVW [c. February-March 1918], GVW Papers, AAA, reel 2361.

14 From letters to Gertrude Whitney from Martin Birnbaum, Chanler’s dealer, dated November 26, and December 3, 1917, in GVWP, AAA, reel 2361, it is clear that Chanler was not working on the commission at that time.  A February 1918 letter to Whitney from Juliana Rieser Force, who was in charge of all her art activities, reports that Chanler was despondent about his work and not able to progress without her. Whitney was in Ft. Worth, Texas, in February 1918, visiting her son, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (1899-1992).

15 The ceiling and fireplace are the subject of an excellent master’s thesis by Lauren Elizabeth Vollono Drapala: Vollono, Lauren Elizabeth. (2010). "Rediscovering an American Master: An Examination and Analysis of the Decorative Plaster Ceiling of Robert Winthrop Chanler's Whitney Studio, New York." (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.

16 The screen was called “The Firmament” in “Exhibition of the Art of Robert Winthrop Chanler at the Albright Art Gallery,” Academy Notes, 16 (January-June 1921); Ivan Narodny titled it “Astrological Screen” in The Art of Robert Winthrop Chanler (New York: William Heilbrun, 1922, and reprinted in 1931 by the Roerich Museum Press); and it appeared as “Dance of the Planets” in Ernestine Hartley, “An Aristocrat in Bohemia:  Such is Robert Winthrop Chanler,” Shadowland, vol. 7, no. 2 (October 1922). 

17 La Farge invented and patented opalescent glass in early 1880; Louis Comfort Tiffany applied for similar patents later that year.  The two friends and colleagues became rivals after Tiffany and his firm outstripped La Farge as creators and purveyors of artistic stained glass.

18 Chanler left his library to the Cooper Union, which transferred the bequest to the library of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in 1933.  The Chanler gift was recorded in two volumes of the library’s accession books from 1933-1935.  I thank Elizabeth Broman, reference librarian, and Steve Van Wyk, head librarian of the Cooper-Hewitt, for showing me these volumes.

19 Fahlman, “Robert Winthrop Chanler: Reclaiming an American Modernist,” in press.

20 There were several excellent glass firms based in Greenwich Village and in Brooklyn.

21 Martin Birnbaum, The Last Romantic: The Story of More Than a Half-Century in the World of Art (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1960), p. 164; Tyrell, Bob Chanler’s Creepy Art, RWC scrapbook, AAA, reel 4131.

22 Five of the seven stained glass panels are owned by Arthur and Bronnie Hindin of Retro Modern Lighting, and can be seen in their shop at 29 East 10th Street, New York City. 

23 As with a print’s plate and paper impression, Chanler’s sketch is the reverse of the finished glass.

24 Laurette McCarthy has discovered that this screen, which is painted on both sides, was exhibited in the epochal International Exhibition of Modern Art, known as the Armory Show, in 1913.  It is not known when Gertrude Whitney bought the screen, but the purchase probably took place between 1918 and 1923.  In his 1922 catalogue on Chanler’s work, Brinton dated the undersea battle side of the screen as 1912 and the astrological side as 1917.  This is plausible because only the marine scene was photographed—the other side of the screen could have blank at the time of the Armory Show and Chanler might have painted it later.  Chanler was one of the most popular artists in the exhibition, and McCarthy has found that he showed between twenty-five and twenty-seven screens rather than the nine or eight previously thought.  See Laurette McCarthy, “Robert Winthrop Chanler’s Armory Show Screens: more than ever realized,” Archives of American Art Blog, November 4, 2013 -- http://blog.aaa.si.edu/2013/11/robert-winthrop-chanlers-armory-show-screens-more-than-ever-realized.html

25 J. E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, trans. by Jack Sage (New York:  Dorset Press, 1991), pp. 218, 304.

26 Cirlot, pp. 85-87.

27 I thank Joel Rosenkranz and Mark Ostrander for calling this interpretation to my attention.

28 Birnbaum, p. 165.

29 Chanler and Crowley’s alliance persisted. In an undated letter from this period (GVWP, AAA, reel 2361), Chanler wrote in a postscript to Whitney, “Great Party this Saturday night.  Under World [.] Crowley etc.”  In “Robert Chanler: Reclaiming an American Modernist,” Fahlman reports that Chanler painted a portrait of Crowley. 

30 Narody, p. 83