Biggs Museum of American Art

Dover, Delaware



John Sloan's Etchings: Imagination, Invention, and a Passion for "Needling In"


From March 8 through April 30, 2000 the Biggs Museum presents an exhibition of 40 etchings by the important American artist, John Sloan. Subjects include scenes from city life, the art world, and Santa Fe, New Mexico from the first decades of the 20th century. A Preview Reception is slated for March 8 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. followed by an illustrated lecture by curator Jeanette Toohey of the Delaware Art Museum, which organized the exhibition. (left: Night Windows)

John Sloan's Etchings: Imagination, Invention, and a Passion for "Needling In" features the work of John Sloan (1871-1951) who began his career as an illustrator for a newspaper in Philadelphia. In the early 20th century, Sloan exhibited with a group of artists guided by Robert Henri who became known as The Eight. This group is known for its rebellious attitude towards the art establishment and interest in capturing the everyday life of urban environments. In 1904 Sloan moved to New York City where he created a number of etchings that commented on modern life.

Sloan's relationship with his friend Robert Henri is celebrated in two images - a portrait of Henri and Memory, a work that commemorates John and Dolly Sloan's close relationship with Henri and his wife. Roof, Summer Night and Night Windows from the New York City Life series reflect Sloan's close observations of apartment dwellers. A number of etchings in this exhibition will evoke a wry smile as Sloan's commentaries on modern life are often humorous and satirical.

This exhibition also examines the technical aspects of John Sloan's etchings throughout his career. Etching is a technique in which a design is chemically eroded into the plate. The artist scratches lines into a layer of emulsion on a copper plate using a needle. The plate is bathed in acid, which bites into the plate where the lines have been drawn. The plate is inked and an impression is made. Sloan taught himself etching, a technique employed by artists since the sixteenth century, by studying one of several 'how-to' manuals available in the 1880s. Sloan viewed etchings as inexpensive yet authentic works of art: "Every print is a handmade thing, the personal work of the artist, yet it may be put out in great quantity as a means of reproducing the artist's concept." (left: Roof, Summer Night , 1906)

The forty etchings in the exhibition were selected from the Delaware Art Museum's vast holdings of John Sloan's work.


Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Biggs Museum of American Art.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 12/30/10

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