Hanging laundry in a tenement backyard, 1912

John Sloan painted many rooftop scenes, typically depicting the ordinary activities he would see on the Greenwich Village and Chelsea roofs of his neighbors.

In 1912, a woman hanging her laundry to dry apparently caught his eye, and the painting “A Woman’s Work” is the result.

It’s Sloan at his best: her face is turned away while she secures the garments to the rope, and the laundry lines and tenements in the background seem to isolate her from the rest of the city.

The painting belongs to the Cleveland Museum of Art. “With its generally sunny mood, the painting lacks the nightmarish qualities of contemporary photographs of slum conditions in New York by Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine,” the museum states. “Nevertheless, it offers a window view on how poor and working-class residents lived in America’s biggest city — and how laws and regulations shaped their world.”

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7 Responses to “Hanging laundry in a tenement backyard, 1912”

  1. Mykola Mick Dementiuk Says:

    I recall the 1950s-60s on the Lower East Side my mother always hung her wash from a fire escape or a window overlooking a cluttered yard down below. We lived mostly in 4th or 5th floor apartments, so it was nice to have a little respite from the other tenants. But now I wonder was the rent of apartments higher or lower to where you were located? That I don’t know…

  2. Hanging laundry in a tenement backyard, 1912 | Real Estate Investing Says:

    […] Source: FS – NYC Real Estate Hanging laundry in a tenement backyard, 1912 […]

  3. Sara Says:

    Gorgeous painting thank you for sharing! Ive always loved how laundry looked hanging.

  4. deborah shaver Says:

    I love all your Paintings of early life in NYC, thank you.

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    You’re welcome, I keep discovering new ones that I want to share, like this one of John Sloan’s.

  6. olgamay123 Says:

    Ephemeral New York, I love the posts.  I am from NYC.  But no chance of returning which is why your posts are so meaningful. Infinite gratitude, Olga Starr

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thank you so much Olgamay! I love hearing from former New Yorkers who’ve left the city and alas may not be able to return.

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