Posts Tagged ‘John Sloan Greenwich Village’

What John Sloan painted after “loafing about Madison Square”

August 30, 2021

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.”

Greenwich Village from John Sloan’s rear window

February 22, 2021

After John Sloan and his wife left Philadelphia and relocated to New York City in 1904, the couple lived first in Chelsea and then in various places in Greenwich Village, where Sloan also took a studio at Sixth Avenue and Cornelia Street to create art that found “beauty in commonplace things and people,” as he once said, per the Whitney Museum.

From one of those Village apartments or out his studio window, Sloan had a view of the shared rear yards of his tenement neighbors on West Fourth Street. “Backyards, Greenwich Village,” from 1914, was born out of that view.

“Here, a private scene of two children building a snowman in a backyard, with a pair of cats and another child watching them from a window above, brings dignity and romance to lives that would otherwise go unnoticed,” states the Whitney.

It’s hardly the only Sloan painting that featured cats—this Ashcan School founder memorialized a few of the dozen cats living at McSorley’s Bar on East Seventh Street in “McSorley’s Cats,” from 1928.

Spring flowers arrive on a rainy Village sidewalk

March 27, 2017

Few artists painted the moods, rhythms, and rituals of the seasons like John Sloan, who moved to New York from Philadelphia in 1904 and spent the early 20th century in Greenwich Village—living and working for almost a decade at 88 Washington Place.

His windows facing Lower Sixth Avenue “gave Sloan a view of street life from an elevated vantage point, which he frequently incorporated into his paintings,” states the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston.

A real-life wagon loaded with vibrant flowers was the inspiration for his 1924 painting “Flowers of Spring,” which belongs to the MFA.

As Sloan (at left in a self-portrait from 1890) himself recalled in his book Gist of Art:

“This picture has, in a very direct, simple way, handed on the thrill that comes to everyone on a wet spring morning from the first sight of the flower huckster’s wagon. The brilliant notes of the plants surrounded on all sides by wet, city grays.”

Sloan’s beloved wife, Dolly, is the woman on the left with the umbrella.

[Hat Tip: Kathy van Vorhees]