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Robert Winthrop Chanler was a very original artist who played a highly visible role in the New York art world of the early 20th century. Born to a distinguished family in Dutchess County, New York, Chanler spent the first decade or so of his adult life traveling around Europe painting and studying before returning to New York in 1902. He hosted famously lavish parties in his Gramercy Park house on East Nineteenth Street, known then as 'The House of Fantasy', and enjoyed an intense social and artistic network that included the Harrimans, Whitneys, and Vanderbilts.
In 1913 he exhibited approximately twenty-five screens at the "International Exhibition of Modern Art", the first large-scale show of modern European and American art held in the United States at the New York Armory. His works, supported by his patrons Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Mary Averell Harriman and others, were dubbed a "revelation", a resounding success that led to his decorative screens being seen as part of the wider modern art movement. Indeed, contemporary critic Frank Crowninshield commented "His works created a genuine sensation. He was the one 'discovery' of the American section of that exhibit". Chanler would go on to paint the "Bird Loggia", an avian fantasy depicting hundreds of birds amongst trellis on the seventy-five foot vaulted ceilings of the Colony Club, New York. Completed in 1915, it was one of the largest and most challenging projects of his career.
The Harriman family were among Chanler's longest-standing multigenerational patrons who commissioned several painted screens and other major works, including the decoration of the library of the Vanderbilt mansion at 660 Fifth Avenue, New York, just before 1907; then around 1913 several works for Arden House, Mary Harriman's country estate in the Hudson Valley.