What John Sloan saw on the night before Easter

Easter Sunday has just passed, so I wish I came across this painting earlier this week in time to write about it. But maybe it doesn’t matter, because through the eyes and Impressionist brush of John Sloan, this 1907 work is a timeless nocturne of a seemingly ordinary transaction.

We’re probably in Greenwich Village, where Sloan lived and worked. Easter lilies are laid out in front of a shop for passersby to inspect, pick through, and make their selection. These sidewalk shoppers are shrouded in darkness, practically obscured by the black umbrella one carries.

But as they touch the flowers, you can feel the softness of the petals and sense how bright they must have looked illuminated by the artificial light of the store window. The rain-slicked sidewalk and the warm light from the cafe next door makes it an even more potent, sensuous image of the simple act of purchasing flowers on a rainy spring night.

Two decades later, Sloan painted another scene of spring flowers and a wet sidewalk that is equally evocative.

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6 Responses to “What John Sloan saw on the night before Easter”

  1. Chas Says:

    I grew up in the village and I can remember similar scenes. They are gone but still remind me of a nicer time and old friends.

  2. velovixen Says:

    This almost seems like a photograph negative of the “spring flowers on a wet sidewalk” painting you posted four years ago. Or, if you like, if that one is somewhat impressionistic, this one is chiaroscuro: In one, a light source illuminates the flowers; in the other, the wet sidewalk–almost the inverse of a light source–highlights the colors of the flowers. I love both of them!

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      That’s a really good observation about the photo negative—I didn’t even notice. Both paintings even seem like bookends: day/night, etc.

  3. Lady G. Says:

    I love how you feature classic New York artists. This is a beautiful painting, and you describe all the ones you post so evocatively.

  4. Roosevelt Island Historical Society » Wednesday, April 20, 2022 – Wonderful paintings of the New York scene Says:

    […] What John Sloan saw on the night before Easter […]

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