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Juliana R. Force (December 25, 1876 – August 28, 1948) was an American art museum administrator and director. The contest "The Immigrant in America" was sponsored by wealthy sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and organized by her right-hand woman, Juliana R. Force. It was the brainchild of Frances Kellor. In 1918 Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney joined Mabel Dwight and founded the Whitney Studio Club, Juliana R. Force was the club's director. Juliana Force, appointed as director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1929, had no training in art. She came from a poor family and never had the opportunity to attend college. Force rose to the helm of one of the nation’s top art institutions through a carefully constructed social network. Nevertheless, her biographer Avis Berman tells us, Force endured insults and criticism. Despite her close relationship with the museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, she was given the unflattering title of “Ugly Duchess” and was accused of being an interloper in a social and professional circle that was beyond her birthright. Yet in her time Juliana Force was one of the most powerful leaders of the art museum world, wielding considerable influence over the direction of collecting, exhibiting, and funding. Today she is recognized for her pivotal role in advancing the careers of American artists including Edward Hopper and George Bellows. Throughout her remarkable career, Force advocated that people should form their own opinions and trust their intuition. “Think for yourself” was her mantra.
Force was born Julianna Reiser in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on December 25, 1876. She became known as "Juliana". She was a twin and had seven other siblings besides her twin sister. Force's last name was spelled Reiser; she later changed the spelling to Rieser. Her father was a grocer and a hatter.  The Rieser family moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1886. As a child Force attended a Christian boarding school for girls. For a short time in 1908 Force taught at a secretarial business school in Manhattan, downtown New York City. In 1911, at the age of 35 Force married Willard Force, a dentist, then becoming known as "Juliana Rieser Force" or "Juliana Reiser Force" or "Juliana R. Force", which is sometimes shortened to "Juliana Force". Her husband died in 1928, and they had no children.
Force's first job was as the personal secretary of socialite Helen Hay (wife of Payne Whitney). At the age of 38 in 1914 she became the private secretary for Helen Hay's sister-in-law, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a great-granddaughter of "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt and eldest surviving daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Whitney, a sculptress and art collector, had inherited a Vanderbilt fortune. Whitney gave as Force's first duty an assignment to help organize art exhibitions at the Colony Club, an exclusive conservative social club for wealthy socialite women in New York City. Here Force showed off Whitney's art and a different kind of new unusual art by creative artists of a group called The Eight. Whitney was making a statement that all kinds of art, including different styles of art from new artists, should be represented to the public. Whitney was interested in displaying her collection of work as well as other art from modernist artists, especially living Americans. Whitney assigned Force in 1929 to contact the Metropolitan Museum of Art to prepare a plan for a gift of Whitney's collection. Whitney's art collection gift was to be displayed in a new wing, partly financed by her. The museum turned down the gift. Whitney then displayed her work in her own studios and galleries, that were under her name. Force managed these art enterprises and then in 1930 became director of the new Whitney Museum of American Art that developed from these art studio and gallery enterprises. Force was not trained as an art historian. She hired Lloyd Goodrich, an art historian, to be curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, best known throughout the United States for displaying new kinds and unusual styles of modern art from living artists. Force's passion for new styles of art and her organizational traits made her an administrative director of the nationally known art museum notable for twentieth and twenty-first century art.
Force initiated the first display of American folk art in a gallery in the United States, the "Early American Art" collection. On February 9, 1924 she began a presentation of folk art in a Whitney gallery that she administered, intending to bring folk art attractiveness closer to the level of contemporary art. Because of her passion for folk art, this initial display led to the first official public exhibition of folk art in a public showing presentation. Although her interactions with artists at the Whitney Studio Club inspired her to personally collect modern art, her collections of nineteenth-century and older folk art and decorative arts were larger and more significant. Her Eighth Street apartment was decorated in a Victorian style, contrary to contemporary tastes, and her home at Barley Sheaf Farm in Doylestown was filled with her folk art collection. Primarily acquired from rural antique dealers, her collection included portraits by early American limners, theorem paintings on velvet, and eclectic objects like cigar store Indians and toys.
Force became chair of the American Art Research Council in 1942. The United States government did a national tour show of German art in 1946 of war booty. Force shortly thereafter undertook a course of action to return the art to its rightful owner. The Whitney Museum of American Art directed by Force did art shows between 1946 and 1948 on Albert Pinkham Ryder, Robert Feke and Winslow Homer to promote public awareness of these artists.
Force died in New York City on August 28, 1948, and buried at the Doylestown Cemetery in Pennsylvania. The museum held a memorial exhibition in her honor in 1949.
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