The Chanler Fireplace Project

A once-glorious decorative plaster and bronze fireplace now lies obscured under decades of overpaint. The former studio of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, located at the New York Studio School in lower Manhattan, contains one of the most important commissions of artist Robert Winthrop Chanler. The artist created a decorative personal studio for Whitney that originally included painted screens, stained glass windows, a polychrome bas-relief ceiling and a flamboyant and spectacular fireplace. The fireplace is the focus of this study. This unique sculptural fireplace, completed in 1923, was applied over a pre-existing brick mantel and chimney structure. Work began in 1918 and continued over a period of five years. Its creation was a process of evolution and experimentation. Over time, the fireplace has been repeatedly overpainted and has slowly deteriorated. A project to assess the condition and establish the chromochronology of the structure began in January of 2013, initiated as a joint effort of the World Monuments Fund; the Conservation Center (Institute of Fine Arts, New York University) and Columbia University’s Historic Preservation Program (Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University).

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