Posts Tagged ‘John Sloan’

Crossing paths on 59th Street on a blustery day

November 18, 2019

Helen Farr Sloan was the former student—and then second wife—of Ashcan artist John Sloan. When her husband died in 1951, she remained devoted to promoting his art and achievements.

But Farr Sloan was an exceptional artist in her own right. Born in New York, she became a printmaker and painter who had something to say about the 20th century city.

“59th Street, New York City,” from 1930, takes us to a bustling Manhattan block on a blustery day. Hats are blown off, snow is shoveled, a woman approaches a taxi, people in drab coats shielding themselves with umbrellas go on their way.

The scene could be a moment of human interaction in any Depression-era town. Yet the colorful lights and tall buildings in the distance evoke a modern and detached metropolis where it’s unlikely any of these mostly faceless figures will ever cross paths again.

[The painting belongs to the Delaware Art Museum, which has a deep collection of works by John Sloan and Helen Farr Sloan]

Faces in the shadow of the Third Avenue El

April 16, 2018

New Yorkers no longer plow through the sky on hulking elevated trains. But the great crowds of commuters and the traffic below the steel rails feels very familiar.

John Sloan’s Six O’Clock, Winter gives us the scene under the Third Avenue El in 1912. (Not the Sixth Avenue El, the subject of some of his other paintings.)

“The shop girls, clerks, and working men and women who are massed in the lower part of the canvas seem absorbed in their own actions, rushing to their various destinations, generally unaware of the huge elevated railway looming high above them,” states the website of the Phillips Collection.

“The figures are illuminated by the glow of the train’s electric lights from above and from the shops at street level, with those in the lower left of the composition cast in strong light. Loosely brushed in, the faces have a masklike appearance, while those on the right are almost hidden in shadow, obscuring their features.”

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]

Confusion and despair in the Tenderloin District

June 16, 2016

At night, the Tenderloin was the city’s red-light district during the turn of the century, a center of sex and sin that blazed with light and put high-rolling millionaires in proximity to lower-class drinkers, gamblers, showgirls, and prostitutes.


During the day, with its veil lifted, the Tenderloin revealed its gritty despair. In “Sixth Avenue and Thirtieth Street,” John Sloan depicts a confused, distressed woman as others stare or pass her by with indifference.

Sloan seemed to have a fascination with the Tenderloin; the same year, he painted the neighborhood’s “loud and lurid” club, the Haymarket.

Madison Square’s sensuous “throbbing fountain”

August 10, 2015

When painter John Sloan arrived in New York City in 1904, he first settled in Chelsea, not far from Madison Square Park.


The park soon became one of his favorite haunts, partly because of the diverse mix of people he could observe there, but also due to a 30-foot fountain at the south end of the park.

In his diary he called it the Throbbing Fountain. “Sat in Madison Square,” he wrote on September 9, 1906. “Watched the Throbbing Fountain.”


“Think I’ll soon tackle a plate on this subject,” he continued. “The sensuous attraction of the spurts of water is strong subconsciously on everyone.”

Sloan painted two views of the fountain, one in 1907 and one at night in 1908 (painted from memory, as it was apparently dismantled by then), and both show a fountain with its own hypnotic pull.

Hanging laundry on a New York tenement roof

April 6, 2015

John Sloan sure had a thing for painting rooftops.

“Red Kimono on the Roof,” from 1912, is just one of many Sloan paintings depicting the view from a roof, or featuring women hanging laundry or catching a breeze from the top of a tenement.


“This unglorified glimpse of a woman hanging laundry was probably painted from Sloan’s studio window,” states the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s website.

“Unconscious grace” on a rooftop in Chelsea

August 19, 2013

Lines of laundry, a pigeon coop, a sunbather? It’s a very different neighborhood today than the one depicted in John Sloan’s A Roof in Chelsea, New York, painted in the 1940s.

“This is one of Sloan’s last renderings of the domestic city life he so loved to observe,” states this writeup from the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College. “He worked on the painting at intervals beginning in 1941.”


“Sloan was particularly drawn to the subject of women hanging out laundry on rooftops. He described his persistent attraction to this theme as ‘an urge to record my strong emotional response to the city woman, any woman running up colors of a fresh clean wash. Sun, wind, . . . blowing hair, unconscious grace give me great joy.’”

Here’s another Sloan painting of women, hair, and laundry—this time on a Cornelia Street roof.

“Full of light, movement, and brilliant color, this ebullient image stands in sharp contrast to some of Sloan’s more introspective works and the strident political illustrations he created earlier in his career.”

When the Village tried to secede from the nation

January 10, 2012

The first time was in the summer of 1916.

“Ellis Jones, an editor at the humor magazine Life, had called upon his fellow Villagers to join him in a second American Revolution declaring their community independent of the United States,” wrote Ross Wetzsteon in 2002’s Republic of Dreams.

Jones’ announcement was reportedly meant to be cheeky. But cops didn’t get the joke.

They greeted the dozen or so “revolutionaries” in Central Park with machine guns and ambulances, in case of anarchist riots (none materialized).

The second stab at independence was more clever. On a frigid January night in 1917, six Villagers—led by painter John Sloan, artist Marcel Duchamp, and Gertrude Dick, a young student of Sloan’s who loved a good prank—slipped past a patrolman into a side door of the Washington Square arch.

They climbed the 110 steps of the spiral iron staircase carrying wine, cap guns, balloons, Chinese lanterns, and sandwiches.

“Soon soused, the six Arch-Conspirators decided the moment had arrived,” wrote Wetzsteon.

“They tied their balloons to the parapet, and, in John’s words, ‘did sign and affix our names to a parchment. having the same duly sealed with the Great Seal of Greenwich Village.’

“As the other five fired their cap pistols, Gertrude read their declaration, which consisted of nothing but the word ‘whereas’ repeated over and over—surely Marcel’s inspiration—until the final words proclaiming that henceforth Greenwich Village would be a free and independent republic.”

Well, clearly, an independent republic wasn’t established. “The only result of the Revolution of Washington Square was that the door at the base of the arch was permanently locked,” said Wetzsteon.

[Top image and bottom photo, Washington Square arch in the teens and 1902, from the NYPL Digital Collection. Middle image: John Sloan’s 1917 sketch “The Escapade of the Arch Conspirators”]

The “chopped out” city from Greenwich Village

October 19, 2011

John Sloan depicts a moody Village set apart from the rest of the city in his 1922 painting “The City From Greenwich Village.”

In his notes, he had this to say about the setting, the light, and “chopped out” modern New York:

“Looking south over lower Sixth Avenue from the roof of my Washington Place studio, on a winter evening. The distant lights of the great office buildings downtown are seen in the gathering darkness. The triangular loft building on the right had contained my studio for three years before.

“Although painted from memory it seems thoroughly convincing in its handling of light and space. The spot on which the spectator stands is now an imaginary point since all the buildings as far as the turn of the elevated have been removed, and Sixth Avenue has been extended straight down to the business district.

“The picture makes a record of the beauty of the older city which is giving way to the chopped-out towers of the modern New York. Pencil sketch provided details.”

“Spring Night, Harlem River”

August 1, 2011

In 1899, Ernest Lawson, a member of “The Eight” along with John Sloan, Everett Shinn, and other New York City painters, moved to Upper Manhattan.

Which is why his work often depicts the landscape of today’s Washington Heights and Inwood. In this 1913 painting, he gives the Washington Bridge linking Manhattan and the Bronx at 181st Street a dramatic and romantic moonlit glow.