What John Sloan painted after “loafing about Madison Square”

Ashcan painter John Sloan is the master of the city scene, infusing seemingly uneventful interactions with dense imagery and narration that presents a deeper story.

“Recruiting in Union Square,” from 1909, is a haunting example of this. But it took some lounging around another New York City park for Sloan to get the inspiration to capture the scene.

“Of this piece, the artist wrote that he, “loafed about Madison Square where the trees are heavily daubed with fresh green and the benches filled with tired bums,” states the Butler Institute of American Art, which has the painting in its collection.

“After mulling about this scene for several days, Sloan finally began his painting of a city square where Army recruiting signs stood among several vagrants who he called ‘bench warmers.'”

No word on why Sloan seemed to move the scene he found in Madison Square to Union Square, but he would have crossed paths with both parks regularly. After moving to Manhattan from Philadelphia in 1904, he and his wife moved around Chelsea and Greenwich Village.

“Although he claimed he tried to keep his political views out of his art, Sloan painted Recruiting a mere six months before becoming a member of the Socialist Party,” according to the Butler Institute. “Perhaps it was this pursuit of personal freedom that ultimately encouraged Sloan to become a member of Henri’s infamous group known as ‘The Eight,’ who rebelled against the popularity and academia of The National Academy of Design.”

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One Response to “What John Sloan painted after “loafing about Madison Square””

  1. Greg Says:

    Hard to tell who is a bum when yesterday’s bums dressed better than today’s bankers.

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