The Art Students League of New York is an art school founded in 1875. 1875 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ...
Its creation came in response to both an anticipated gap in the program of the National Academy of Design's program of classes for that year, and longer-term desires for more variety and flexibility in education for artists. The National Academy of Design, in New York City, now called simply The National Academy, is an honorary association of American artists, with a museum and a school of fine arts. ...
When the Academy resumed a more typical, but liberalized, program, in 1877, there was some sentiment that the League had served its purpose, but its students voted to continue its program.
From "The Art Students League Selections from the Permanent Collection" 1987 Special thanks to Ronald G. Pisano
Post-Civil War prosperity effected an artistic awakening in some sections of America, most notably New York City, which in the 1870s was rapidly becoming the artistic capital of the nation. Its major art institution, the National Academy of Design (founded in 1825), was one of the oldest organizations of its kind in America. Representation in one of its annual exhibitions was a significant accomplishment for an artist; and election to full membership was indeed a paramount goal for many. By the mid-1870s, however, artists and art students in New York increasingly realized that the Academy was no longer adequate to serve the needs of their growing profession.
Many young artists returning from their studies abroad were 'au courant' with the most modern European developments. They felt that the established members of the Academy were conservative by comparison and thus unsympathetic to their relatively radical ideas and more sophisticated attitudes toward art. One progressive group found support at the home of Richard Watson Gilder, editor of The Century Magazine, and his wife Helena de Kay Gilder. The informal gatherings at which these artists exchanged ideas about art began as early as 1874 and climaxed three years later when they formed the Society of American Artists. In great part, this development reflected the conflict between the "old guard" at the National Academy and the young rebels: conservative versus progressive, insular as opposed to cosmopolitan.
It was also prompted by the fact that there was just not enough exhibition space to accommodate the rapidly growing number of artists flocking to the city. The annual exhibitions of the Society of American Artists helped to alleviate this problem, and the Society itself provided the more progressive artists with their own forum.
A similar development took place in the spring of 1875, when it was rumored that the National Academy, due to financial difficulties, would cancel all classes until December. Students were alarmed. The Academy required them to devote the first ten weeks of each school session to drawing from the antique; so if this were true, they would not get to paint from life, their main interest, until February of the following year. Even more distressing was another rumor; if classes did resume, there might not be any instructor hired to direct them. The fact that their teacher Lemuel Wilmarth had not been asked to serve this function seemed to substantiate the story. Since there were no alternative means by which art students could engage in any formal course of study from live models, the students were particularly eager to deal with this dire situation before it was too late.
They met with Wilmarth to discuss the matter. The result of their meeting was the formation of the Art Students League. From the start, it was evident that the founding of the Art Students League was precipitated by the possible cancellation of the Academy's classes. In addition, the students were dissatisfied with the rigid and limited course of study the Academy offered. They identified, and soon aligned themselves with, those artists who would soon form the Society of American Artists (and who would later become the chief instructors at the League).
Like the National Academy, the League was established as a membership organization, but there was one major difference: unlike the Academy, where one had to be elected to a relatively small and elite group of artists, the Art Students League offered membership to any candidate with acceptable moral character and the means to pay his dues. The informal nature of the League's organization was also very different from that of the Academy.
At first, the major concern of its organizers was the continuation of life classes and the need to secure a place in which to conduct them. Modest quarters were obtained at 108 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of Sixteenth Street. These quarters consisted of one half of a room measuring twenty by thirty feet. Within a month's time, attendance had risen to approximately seventy students, and the other half of the room had to be rented as well.4
As of 2004, the League remains an important force in New York City art life. 2004 is a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ...
New York City, officially named the City of New York, is the most populous city in the United States, the most densely populated major city in North America, and is at the center of international finance, politics, entertainment, and culture. ...
- Official "Brief History of The League's Early Years"
- PBS American Masters documentation which includes alums