Posts Tagged ‘Ashcan School’

A wet and windy night in Washington Square

October 27, 2014

Washington Square enchants in Everett Shinn’s depiction of a blustery and busy night there in 1910. A member of the Ashcan School, Shinn favored scenes of city life and social realism.

Everett Shinn - Washington Square, New York, 1910

“He painted tenement fires, bread lines, and theater scenes, but he especially liked to depict the parks and squares of the city; Washington Square, a 13.5 acre park in the midst of New York City’s Greenwich Village, was his favorite,” states the website for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which owns this painting.

When asked for his opinion on the most beautiful place in New York, Shinn replied, “When I want to be sure to find beauty I go to Washington Square. . . . No matter what the conditions may be under which I see it—no matter what my mood may be—I feel almost sure that it will appeal to me as beautiful.”

Beauty and vitality at the Columbus Avenue El

February 10, 2014

Gifford Beal may not be as well-known as fellow Ashcan School artists John Sloan and William Glackens. But that makes discovering Beal’s enchanting impressionistic paintings such a joy.

“Elevated, Columbus Avenue, New York” was completed in 1916, and it’s likely an El stop near Beal’s own apartment, states the New Britain Museum of Art.


“Beal’s impressionistic rendering does indeed capture the ceaseless movement that invigorates city life,” states the museum website.

“His figures are carefully arranged dabs of color that lack precise detailing. Yet within this blur of activity, Beal offers small vignettes that humanize the anonymous crowd: a woman posts a letter, a top-hatted gentleman steadies his friend on the slippery walkway, a worker clears snow with a broom.”

“Whereas some artists of the day, such as the members of the Ashcan School, focused on the poverty and alienation that could be found within the city, Beal saw the beauty and vitality that existed there as well.”

The “river rats” taking a swim off Manhattan

July 30, 2012

Painter George Bellows chronicled many of New York’s slum streets and tenements.

In 1906’s gritty and dark River Rats, he portrays the poor kids who spent summer evenings cooling off in the filthy East River, the docks and rocks their only respite from the heat of the city.

“Along the lower edge of the muddy-colored canvas a gangling group of scantily clad boys is depicted cavorting at the edge of the East River, while the center of the painting is given over to the graceless, rocky cliff descending from the city streets to the water,” writes Marianne Doezema in George Bellows and Urban America.

The rocky cliff in the painting—perhaps it was part of the old Gashouse District in the East 20s or Dutch Hill in the East 40s and 50s, which became an industrial area packed with slaughterhouses and factories before being razed to make way for Tudor City in the 1920s?

The messy, crowded, chaotic city of 1911

November 15, 2011

It’s hard to say where the sidewalk ends and the street begins in Ashcan School artist George Bellows’ New York, painted in 1911.

It belongs to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and is one of Bellows’ energetic depictions of a crude, crammed New York  in the early 20th century.

Bellows also revealed a more desolate side to the city, like this raw portrait of a single tenement by the East River.

The “watery slush” of Washington Square

February 16, 2011

The park was a favorite subject for Ashcan artist William Glackens, who depicts a late winter scene in “Washington Square, Winter” from 1910.

“Washington Square South was Glackens’s home from 1904 to 1913, and he painted more scenes of the square than any other subject except the beach near Bellport, Long Island,” states the website for the New Britain Museum of American Art, where the painting hangs.

“The Washington Square paintings were done in the winter, when the artist delighted in using paint to describe the thick mud, deep snowdrifts, and watery slush on the sidewalks.

“Once a fashionable address, it was by 1910 a diverse neighborhood, typical of the city of New York, which fascinated Glackens. Among the favored details that appear in his Washington Square series are the boy with the red sled, the green bus or trolley, and the woman in the flowered hat.”

“Central Park, New York,” 1901

August 8, 2010

Maurice Prendergast’s mosaic-like watercolor captures a lovely, leisurely day of carriage riding and strolling. And huge, puffy turn-of-the-century hats.

Canadian-born Prendergast was a member of The Eight, a group of artists who opposed the rigidity of the American art world at the time.

Nighttime buying and selling on Allen Street

July 29, 2010

A dress shop, furniture and rugs for sale on the sidewalk, a pretzel vendor—there’s a lot happening on bustling Allen Street in George Luks’ 1905 painting of a Lower East Side street.

“20 Cent Movie” at a Times Square theater

November 7, 2009

In the 1920s and 1930s, painter Reginald Marsh depicted scenes from the seedy side of the city: burlesque-show floozies, Bowery bums, and life’s other bit players—including these characters hanging around the Lyric Theater on 42nd Street.


“20 Cent Movie” dates back to 1936. Marsh was also drawn to Coney Island; he painted a number of carnivalesque beach and boardwalk scenes similar to this one.

A crowd forms on Sixth Avenue and 14th Street

October 20, 2009

“Ashcan School” artist John Sloan really had a thing for the Sixth Avenue El. Several of his paintings depict the El at Third Street or Eighth Street; Jefferson Market Courthouse can often be seen in the distance.


Here he highlights the next stop on the El, at 14th Street. It’s still a major shopping crossroads. Currently a Starbucks and Urban Outfitters occupy the Southeast corner, past the “Shoes” marquee in the painting.

The building across the street with the pointed turret is still there. Down toward Seventh Avenue looms the Salvation Army headquarters, also still in existence.

Fight night in New York: “Stag at Sharkey’s”

June 23, 2009

Until 1920, boxing was mostly outlawed in New York state. A loophole allowed fights to take place in athletic clubs, so many bars became on-the-fly athletic clubs in order to host matches. One of these bars-turned-clubs was Sharkey’s, a saloon on Columbus Avenue near West 67th Street. 

Owned by heavyweight fighter Sailor Tom Sharkey, it’s the setting for this dark, raw 1909 painting by George Bellows. Bellows was part of the Ashcan School—a group of artists bent on depicting realistic, gritty scenes of daily life.


Bellows had a studio close to Sharkey’s; it was in the Lincoln Arcade building, then on Broadway and 65th Street. “Stag at Sharkey’s” remains one of his most popular works.