Posts Tagged ‘Ashcan School NYC’

An abstract painter’s lonely, melancholy city

November 24, 2014

Greenwich Village resident Stuart Davis, who died in 1964, is best known as an artist who embraced the 20th century’s abstract styles, depicting modernist and cubist still lifes and landscapes with intense color.

Tenement Scene

[Above, “Tenement Scene,” 1912]

Yet in the early years of the 20th century, he started out as a student of Robert Henri.

Henri was a social realist painter who was a prominent member of the Ashcan School, a loose-knit group of artists who preferred to show the darker side of urban life. [Below, “Chinatown,” 1912]


Henri’s influence can be seen in some of Davis’ melancholy, realist paintings of city streets and buildings and the people who inhabit them, painted when he was only 20 years old. [Below, “Bleecker Street,” 1912]


Like other Ashcan artists, Davis showed his work at the famous 1913 Armory Show, which brought avant-garde art to American audiences.

“In the following years Davis abandoned his Ashcan realist style and experimented with a variety of modern European styles, including Post-Impressionism and Cubism,” states the website for the Museum of Modern Art.


Stuartdavis1940His later abstract paintings (such as Jefferson Market, from 1930, above) have been described as jazz-influenced precursors to Pop Art.

They certainly have their merits, but there’s something about these moody scenes from the New York of 1912 that capture the city’s humanity.

[Right: Davis in 1940]

A dazzling sunset from a West 23rd Street roof

May 31, 2014

“Sunset, West Twenty-Third Street,” completed in 1906, is another evocative take on the city by John Sloan, with a solitary figure, dramatic sky, and representations of daily life: laundry on a line.

Sloan had a thing for the triple combo of women, rooftops, and laundry, as these paintings reveal.


“A study of dramatic beauty and unexpected tranquility in an undistinguished urban landscape, ‘Sunset, West Twenty-third Street,’ displays Sloan’s ability early in his career to transform a utilitarian setting into a more sublime vista.”

Sloanheadshot1891That’s from the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, which has the painting in its collection.

“Although ‘Sunset, West Twenty-third Street’ could easily be understood as an image of an anonymous woman distracted from her laundry, the figure represented is the artist’s wife, Dolly, on the rooftop of the building that housed his studio.”

Where was his studio? At 165 West 23rd, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Here it is today via Google.

[Photo: John Sloan, 1891]

A little girl’s enchantment with Gramercy Park

September 9, 2013

George Bellows’ 1920 painting Gramercy Park explodes with light and color. It’s a park he knew well; he and his family lived around the corner on East 19th Street.


“The central figure in white is Bellows’s older daughter Anne and situated just behind her in a purple frock is [second daughter] Jean,” states

“Bellows, in the present work depicts the corner of the park bordering Gramercy Park South and Gramercy Park West. The columns that make up the imposing Tuscan facade of the theater club known as The Players located next to the National Arts Club at 16 Gramercy Park West are just visible along the left edge of the composition.

“Facing the viewer in the background beyond the iron fence are the row of brownstones that line Gramercy Park West.”