*Admission is free for all visitors on Tuesdays from 5-8pm.
Schools that are Educator Members receive free admission for students when accompanied by faculty. Non-member school visits pay the Group Rate.
On February 1, 1901 a group of nine artists and one advising businessman founded the Society of Illustrators with this credo: “The object of the Society shall be to promote generally the art of illustration and to hold exhibitions from time to time.”
The first monthly dinners were attended by such prominent illustrators as Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, harles Dana Gibson, Frederic Remington, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy and special guests like Mark Twain and Gloria Swanson.
During the WWI years, Society members worked through the Division of Pictorial Publicity creating many original poster designs. Eight members that were commissioned Captains in the Engineers were sent to France to sketch the war. After the war, the Society operated the School for Disabled Soldiers. Member shows continued at prominent galleries.
In 1920 the Society was incorporated and women became full members. The 20s and 30s were the heydays of the Illustrator’s Shows. These theatrical skits featured the artists and their models as actors, songwriters, set designers and painters.
Professional talent such as the Cotton Club Band and Jimmy Durante also performed. Through member Watson Barrett, the Illustrators’ Show of 1925 was held at the Shubert Theatre and the Shuberts purchased the rights to the skits for their Broadway productions of “Artists and Models.” In time, those funds allowed the Society to acquire its present headquarters.
In August of 1939, the Society moved into an 1875 carriage house located at 128 East 63rd Street. Norman Rockwell’s “Dover Coach” became the backdrop for the bar, where it still hangs today.
During WWII the Society again contributed to the effort with a massive campaign of posters, illustrations and visits to veterans hospitals to sketch the wounded. These pictures were sent to families to help boost morale. The Illustrators’ Jazz Band was formed to entertain the wounded. In 1946, a Welfare Fund for indigent artists was established. In 1948, the Joint
Ethics Committee developed the first Code of Fair Practice. Lectures and demonstrations filled the house during these years.
In 1954 the U.S. Air Force began sending members around the world to document its activities. This program continues today. Thousands of paintings have been contributed over the years.
The first Scholarship Fund was established in the early 50s and, in 1959, Norman Rockwell became the first member elected into the Hall of Fame. That same year, the first Annual Exhibition, which was juried by Bob Peak, Bradbury Thompson and Stevan Dohanos, among others, opened with 350 original works of art and the first publication of the Illustrators Annual book.
The Society’s involvement in illustration, contributions to community service and student scholarship, annual exhibitions and recognition of the greats in the field of Illustration, welfare fund and stand on legal issues, sketch classes, lecture series and social gatherings support our mission and commitment to support the field of illustration—past, present and future.
We invite school groups to the museum for self-guided tours!