The Art Students League of New York is an art school located on West 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City, New York. The League has historically been known for its broad appeal to both amateurs and professional artists and has maintained, for over 130 years, a tradition of offering reasonably priced classes on a flexible schedule to accommodate students from all walks of life.
Although artists may study full-time, there have never been any degree programs or grades, and this informal attitude pervades the culture of the school. From the 19th century to the present, the League has counted among its attendees and instructors many historically important artists, and contributed to numerous influential schools and movements in the art world.
The League also maintains a significant permanent collection of student and faculty work, and publishes an online journal of writing on art-related topics, entitled LINEA. The journal’s name refers to the school’s motto Nulla Dies Sine Linea or “No Day Without a Line,” traditionally attributed to the famous Greek painter Apelles by the historian Pliny the Elder, who recorded that Apelles would not let a day pass without at least drawing a line to practice his art.
Founded in 1875, the League’s creation came about 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 breakaway group of students included many women, and was originally housed in rented rooms at 16th Street and Fifth Avenue.
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, and it was incorporated in 1878. Influential board members from this formative period included painter Thomas Eakins and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Membership continued to increase, forcing the League to relocate to increasingly larger spaces.