Force, Juliana Rieser

Force, Juliana Rieser (b. Reiser)

(1876–1948) museum director, art supporter; born in Doylestown, Pa. Born into a "poor but proud" family, she became a secretary at an early age and then directed a secretarial school. Moving to New York City (early 1900s) she became the private secretary to the wealthy Helen Hay Whitney; in 1912 Rieser married Willard B. Force, a dentist. Mrs. Whitney's sister-in-law was the sculptor and art patron, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and in 1914 she asked Juliana Force to help run her Whitney Studio, a new art gallery in Greenwich Village that was to promote the more progressive American painters. Although she had no background in art, Force seemed to have an instinctive feel for what Whitney and the best young American artists were seeking to achieve and she would spend the rest of her life advancing their cause. She helped Whitney in founding the Friends of the Young Artists (1915), which evolved into the Whitney Studio Club (1918), both designed to support the new artists with exhibits, purchases, and social contacts. Whitney continued to use her fortune to promote art in various other ways, including subsidizing the influential magazine Arts, and Force was the active executor of most of these projects. From 1928–30 Force ran the Whitney Studio Galleries but by then Whitney was convinced that a museum was needed; the foundation of the Whitney Museum of American Art was announced in 1930, and with Force as director it opened (originally in Greenwich Village) in 1931. She continued to expand her support of American artists, helping to organize the federal art program under the Public Works of Art Project (1933–34), heading a 1945 committee that got the New York State legislature to earmark funds to purchase art for public buildings, and becoming one of the first women to participate in museum professionals' organizations.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.