By Debbie Wells
The Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan opened its new building to rave reviews and much excitement. To honor its founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, an enchanting portrait adorns the entrance of one of the main floor galleries. Mrs. Whitney commissioned this work in 1916 from her friend Robert Henri. When Henri’s painting was finished, Harry Payne Whitney refused to allow her to hang it in their grand Fifth Avenue town house. The plaque in the museum explains: He didn’t want his friends to see a picture of his wife, as he put it, “in pants.” She is portrayed as a vibrant and stylish, yet forward-thinking – clearly someone ahead of her time. The painting intrigued me, so I decided to delve and learn more about her.