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Seeing the City: Sloan's
October 20, 2007 - January 20,
The Delaware Art Museum
presents Seeing the City: Sloan's New York, a traveling exhibition
focusing on John Sloan's images of New York City in paintings, drawings,
prints, and photographs to present an in-depth view of the artist's years
in the city and the city's effect on his art. Far from glamorizing the emerging
vertical vistas of sky-scrapers, Sloan focused instead on people, public
spaces, street life, elevated trains, and the pedestrian experience. The
Delaware Art Museum organized this exhibition, drawing on the abundance
of material in its own art and archival collections supplemented by loans
from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Memorial
Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, The Phillips Collection, and
various other public and private collections. Seeing the City will
be on display at the Delaware Art Museum from October 20, 2007, through
January 20, 2008, before traveling to three other institutions.
"The wealth of materials held at the Delaware Art
Museum on and about John Sloan made the creation of this exhibition by us
a natural," said Joyce K. Schiller, Curator at the Delaware Art Museum.
By bringing together numerous images in all media from
1904 through the 1930s, Seeing the City is the first major traveling
exhibition to focus on Sloan's depictions of New York and the first since
the 1970s to present significant new scholarship on the artist. This exhibition
is also the first to isolate Sloan's vision from that of his "Ashcan
School" colleagues in order to explore his individual contribution.
As Sloan moved through the vast and rapidly changing metropolis, he made
sense of it by describing-in his diaries, letters, and pictures-the streets,
squares, gathering places, and city dwellers he encountered. He created
a "pedestrian aesthetic," helping to define New York City in the
popular imagination and creating what one critic called the "slang"
of the city.
Seeing the City maps
Sloan's New York, locating and explicating the subjects he pictured. The
exhibition follows Sloan as he explores parks, streets, and rooftops, examining
the personal and cultural meanings of the sites he chose to depict again
and again. Through wall text, label copy, an interactive kiosk, a robust
website, and a catalog, Seeing the City: Sloan's New York looks
at Sloan from new perspectives and hopefully will inspire new scholarship
on the artist and his circle of friends.
(above: John Sloan (1871-1951), Self-Portrait in Gray
Shirt. 1912, oil on canvas, Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Helen Farr
From 1892 until 1904, John Sloan (1871-1951) worked as
an artist at Philadelphia newspapers and contributed illustrations to magazines.
In 1904, Sloan moved to New York City, determined to pursue a career as
a painter. After the 1908 exhibition of The Eight, some of the group's artists
were derogatorily called the Ashcan School for their depiction of the less
savory areas of the city. Sloan's paintings of New York centered on his
favorite subject: the "drab, shabby, happy, sad, and human life"
of a city and its people. While Sloan remains best known for the New York
scenes he painted during his first 10 years there, he was also an able landscapist
and portraitist, as well as a prolific printmaker.
Helen Farr Sloan
Helen Farr Sloan (1911-2005) first met John Sloan when
she enrolled in the New York Art Students League. He became her lifelong
friend and mentor, and they married in 1944. After John Sloan's death, Helen
Farr Sloan managed his estate and turned it into a philanthropic instrument
to serve local, regional, national, and international arts constituencies.
She first visited Wilmington, Delaware, in 1960 to help organize The
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Exhibition of Independent Artists in 1910;
the original show had been organized by her husband. Over the course of
more than four decades, Mrs. Sloan donated thousands of paintings, prints,
and drawings as well as manuscript materials to the Delaware Art Museum.
This is the largest gift made to the Museum since the founding gifts of
the Howard Pyle collection and the Pre-Raphaelite collection. The Museum
has named two prominent spaces in honor of her generous gifts: the Helen
Farr Sloan Library & Archives and the Helen Farr Sloan Galleries. Recently,
the Delaware Art Museum received the largest cash bequest in its history,
as the Revocable Trust of Helen Farr Sloan distributed $6,850,000 to the
The Delaware Art Museum has produced a 208-page catalog,
dedicated to the memory of Helen Farr Sloan and fully illustrated with objects
in the exhibition, as well as supporting material to accompany the exhibition.
The catalog, titled John Sloan's New York, opens with a director's
preface, describing the Delaware Art Museum's relationship with Helen Farr
Sloan, and an introduction, followed by five scholarly essays and a chronology
of Sloan's time in New York. The catalog is published by the Delaware Art
Museum and Yale University Press, and is available at the Delaware Art Museum
The essays examine Sloan's production from new perspectives,
providing a more thorough understanding of the artist and the Ashcan School.
Dr. Joyce K. Schiller and Heather Campbell Coyle analyze Sloan's notations
of the city in his paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs. Dr. Molly
Hutton's contribution posits that Sloan's engagement with the city streets-through
walking, painting, and descriptive writing in his diary-functioned as a
way to make sense out of his status as newcomer to the city. Dr. Susan Fillin-Yeh
focuses on the liminal, threshold spaces-shop windows and sidewalks-where
Sloan staged so many of the compelling human dramas he painted. Dr. Katherine
Manthorne explores the connections between Sloan's view of the New York
City streets and the moving pictures of the same streets created by cinematographer
D. W. Griffith and examines the painter's relationship with John Butler
Yeats. The final piece in the catalog, Dr. Alexis Boylan's essay, sheds
new light on Sloan's identity as a part of the Ashcan School and his relationship
to Robert Henri.
(above: John Sloan (1871-1951), Three A.M., 1909,
oil on canvas, 32 x 26 1/4 inches. Phildelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs.
Cyrus McCormick, 1946, #46-10.1)
The Delaware Art Museum has produced an interactive website
for Seeing the City: Sloan's New York, located at www.johnsloansnewyork.org,
as well as a touch screen kiosk for the exhibition. The website and kiosk
were developed by the exhibition curators and Columbia University Digital
(above: John Sloan (1871-1951), Jefferson Market,
1917, 1922, oil on canvas, 32 x 26 1/8 inches. Courtesy the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Henry D. Gilpin Fund (1944.10))
Wall text for the exhibition
- When John Sloan moved to New York City in 1904, he was
one of approximately 100,000 people arriving in the city that year. Settling
in Lower Manhattan, Sloan joined numerous artists and writers living between
Third and 30th Streets, including several friends from Philadelphia. Sloan
remained anchored in New York for the rest of his life, and as his relationship
with the city changed, so did his pictures.
- While working as a newspaper illustrator in Philadelphia,
Sloan had begun to paint scenes of urban life near his studio on Walnut
Street. Shortly after his arrival in New York, Sloan settled in Chelsea,
a retail and commercial center, and began to document his new neighborhood.
He learned his way around by walking, and his pictures reflect his experience.
In paintings and etchings, Sloan recorded the streets, shops, elevated
trains, and public parks from the pedestrian's street-level viewpoint.
Other works document the view out his rear window of his neighbors in their
- Sloan's visions of ordinary people on the streets and
in their homes did not always prove popular with genteel factions of the
art establishment, and his works were often rejected from juried exhibitions.
His friends from Philadelphia-Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks,
and Everett Shinn-shared his interests and his fate with the juries. In
1908 they organized a protest exhibition, with three other artists, at
Macbeth Galleries. The show earned them sensational publicity and a nickname,
The Eight. In the wake of The Eight show, Sloan became a public figure
in the New York art world, helping to organize important exhibitions, including
the 1911 Exhibition of Independent Artists and the 1913 Armory Show, and
serving as president of the Society of Independent Artists.
- In 1912, Sloan relocated to Greenwich Village, the city's
most bohemian and artistic quarter. Living in the Village and working on
the editorial board of the socialist periodical, The Masses, he
joined the heart of the city's liberal, intellectual community. In 1916,
he became an instructor at the Art Students League, one of the city's leading
- Sloan's Greenwich Village studios and apartments provided
a new view of the city -- from above -- and he painted more rooftop scenes
and panoramic vistas. His final studio in the Village stood on Washington
Square South, and Sloan chronicled the changing city, as glimpsed from
his window and on the streets nearby. Sloan's late city pictures seem tinged
with nostalgia, and by the thirties, he rarely painted New York. In 1935
Sloan returned to Chelsea, living the rest of his life only a block from
his first apartment on West 23rd Street.
- PANEL 1
- In 1904 Sloan settled in a large apartment that fronted
on West 23rd Street, a busy commercial thoroughfare in the heart of Chelsea.
At $50 per month, his rent was high, but he appreciated the bustling activity
of his neighborhood's streets and parks, which became the subject of many
of his early works. Chelsea was also home to many of the publishers to
whom Sloan sold illustrations to earn his living.
- PANEL 2
- Sloan transformed his experiences in Chelsea into the
New York City Life series of etchings. The first ten prints were made in
1905 and 1906 and they reveal the artist's delight with the city he was
coming to know. The series is divided between private moments glimpsed
through windows and images of public life on the streets and in the galleries.
Full of ironic juxtapositions and meaningful glances, Sloan's etchings
provide a humorous view of New York. Sloan returned to his City Life set
in 1910, making three more etchings, and he revisited the themes developed
in the series for years.
- PANEL 3
- Sloan's first New York painting featured an icebound
ferry slip, and he returned to the subject repeatedly during his first
few years in the city. Sloan's familiarity with Manhattan's piers resulted,
in part, from his wife Dolly's frequent trips to Philadelphia. The ferry
that took passengers across to New Jersey docked at the 23rd Street Pier
on the Hudson River. Just past the Jersey docks, passengers picked up the
Pennsylvania Railroad train to Philadelphia.
- PANEL 4
- Chelsea was already a famous shopping district by the
turn of the century. With the addition of electric lighting in the 1880s,
brighter safer streets lured women and couples out in the evenings, and
window shopping became a popular urban pastime. Partial to evening walks
himself, Sloan chronicled strollers admiring the window displays in his
neighborhood. He lived only a half-block from Sixth Avenue, home to many
small, inexpensive shops and storefront theaters frequented by the working
- PANEL 5
- New York City's parks anchored many of their neighborhoods'
activities. In Chelsea, Madison Square and Union Square offered shade trees
in the summer and lively fountains to cool the air. The prevailing wisdom
held that parks relieved crowding, alleviated class tension, served as
a socializing mechanism for the middle and lower classes, and assisted
in the reform of public culture. In addition to providing healthy, green
gathering places for the community, parks became hubs of city navigation
and were often used as centers for civic action. In Sloan's art, parks
became places to see and be seen, animated by the exchange of glances between
sexes and classes.
- PANEL 6
- From his rear window, Sloan spied domestic dramas played
out in his neighbors' apartments and on their rooftops. A handful of his
paintings and etchings draw on these glimpses into private spaces, glimpses
facilitated by the closely set buildings and open windows of Lower Manhattan.
These voyeuristic pictures were among his most controversial works, rejected
from exhibitions and condemned by the critics.
- PANEL 7
- Turn-of-the-century New York was traversed by the raised
tracks of its steam-powered elevated train system. In Sloan's pictures,
the elevated tracks are always a diagonal line, expressing the speed of
the trains. The El carried more passengers than any other railroad in the
world and relieved street congestion in the country's fastest growing city.
However, the dirt, noise and darkness the El brought transformed the streets
below. The decline of the Bowery into seediness, for example, was associated
with the presence of the elevated trains.
- PANEL 8
- As he got to know the city, Sloan sometimes found his
subject matter farther from home. By 1909, he was wandering more broadly
around Manhattan, often in the company of his friend, John Butler Yeats,
who had arrived in New York, from Ireland, in December 1907. Yeats accompanied
Sloan to see the Coburn Players perform Shakespeare on Columbia Green and
rambled with him around Greenwich Village, where Sloan searched for a place
to live and "soaked in something to paint"-a movie theater at
Bleecker and Carmine Streets. Sloan joined another friend, Joe Laub, to
make oil sketches in Central Park. No longer a newcomer, Sloan had become
a New Yorker, and he began to depict landmarks in the larger city.
- PANEL 9
- In 1910 John and Dolly Sloan joined the Socialist party.
Sloan's political sympathies compelled him to create one of his most moving
illustrations commemorating the disastrous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
Fire of March 1911. Between 1912 and 1916 Sloan served on the editorial
board of The Masses, a monthly Socialist journal. The Masses
was not a doctrinaire political publication and declared itself "hospitable
to free and spirited expressions of every kind." In The Masses,
the pictures were not subordinate to text but stood on their own as an
independent aspect of the publication. At the same time, Sloan produced
illustrations of city subjects for popular periodicals, and some of these
related to his paintings and etchings.
- PANEL 10
- Throughout his years in New York, Sloan recorded life
on the city's rooftops. Especially in the summer, New Yorkers used their
roofs as an extension of their homes-for sleeping, hanging out laundry,
and drying their hair. Sloan's studios on the eighth and eleventh floors
of the Varitype building-one of the taller structures in Greenwich Village-provided
excellent views of the neighboring rooftops.
- PANEL 11
- In 1912 Sloan moved first his studio and then his home
down Sixth Avenue to Greenwich Village, which was becoming recognized as
a haven for creative types. Sloan found a community in the Village, and
many of his paintings and etchings document that community's leaders, like
restaurateur Romany Marie Marchand and playwright Eugene O'Neill, and landmarks,
like Jefferson Market. Filled with artists, writers, and political radicals,
in the teens Greenwich Village appeared to exist apart from the bustling
capitalist center that was Manhattan. Sloan celebrated his neighborhood's
singularity, joining friends, including Marcel Duchamp, atop Washington
Square Arch to sign a declaration of independence for the Greenwich Republic
- PANEL 12
- By the late teens, Greenwich Village was changing, as
Sixth and Seventh Avenues were extended and subways replaced the elevated
railroads, making the neighborhood more accessible to the rest of the city.
Acutely aware of these changes, Sloan memorialized the small shops and
eateries that would soon fall victim to development and recorded the turn
of the Sixth Avenue El at Third Street. Especially in his paintings, Sloan
began to view the city from a greater distance, and by the twenties his
pictures became records of the urban fabric, rather than evocations of
specific encounters. Living at 88 Washington Place from 1915 to 1927, Sloan
painted the views up and down Sixth Avenue that his location provided.
As the landscape changed, these paintings quickly became historical documents.
- PANEL 13
- By the 1920s Sloan's focus had shifted from the city
to the figure, though the view out his window inspired occasional paintings.
Forced to move when his apartment building on Washington Place was marked
for demolition to accommodate the construction of the Sixth Avenue subway,
Sloan produced a spate of photographs documenting the changing landscape.
From his next apartment, on Washington Square South, Sloan recorded the
construction of One Fifth Avenue, an Art Deco skyscraper across the park.
The large window in his studio provided a view of the park that can be
glimpsed in his figure paintings from the 1930s. At the Hotel Chelsea from
1935 until his death in 1951, Sloan revisited subjects and themes, like
Tammany Hall and life on the rooftops, from his earlier work.
(above: John Sloan (1871-1951), The City from Greenwich
Village, 1922, oil on canvas, 26 x 33 1/4 inches. National Gallery of
Art, Washington. Gift of Helen Farr Sloan 1970.11. Image © Board of
Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Object labels for the exhibition
- Please click here
- Delaware Art Museum - October 20, 2007 - January 20,
- Westmoreland Museum of American Art - February 10, 2008
- April 27, 2008
- Smart Museum of Art at the Univ. of Chicago - May 22,
2008 - September 14, 2008
- Reynolda House, Museum of American Art - October 4, 2008
- January 4, 2009
- Art in New York Before and During Sloan's Tenure (Art
- Choose Session 1 or Session 2:
- Session 1: Tuesdays, October 23 & 30, November 6
& 13 / 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
- Session 2: Saturdays, January 12 & 19 / 10:00 a.m.
- Registration: 302-351-8551 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Joyce K. Schiller, Curator of American Art
- Heather Campbell Coyle, Associate Curator of American
- This course, led by the curators who organized Seeing
the City: Sloan's New York, will examine the New York art scene at
the time of John Sloan's arrival as well as the scene's development over
the years he lived in the city.
Sloan Lecture Series
- Free to University of Delaware students with college
- Registration: 302-351-8509 or email@example.com
- John Sloan and the Politics of Urban Modernity
- Dr. Thomas Bender, Professor of History, New York University
- Thursday, October 25, 2007 / 6:00 p.m.
- Dr. Bender will discuss two groups of Modernists who
utilized New York City as the object of their aesthetic revolution: John
Sloan and The Eight and Alfred Stieglitz and his circle.
- Exploring Old Wilmington
- Dr. W. Barksdale Maynard, Lecturer, Johns Hopkins University
- Princeton University
- Saturday, November 10, 2007 / 1:00 p.m.
- Dr. Maynard will focus on Wilmington's architecture around
1900 to show how our modern urban environment is a complex series of historical
layers, revealing a fascinating Wilmington now forgotten.
- The Ashcan Artists' Urban Vision
- Dr. Rebecca Zurier, Associate Professor of the History
- University of Michigan
- Friday, November 30, 2007 / 6:00 p.m.
- This talk will explore the idea of "urban visuality,"
or seeing and being seen in the metropolis, which formed the inspiration
and distinctive subject matter for the Ashcan School.
- Seeing Our City: Wilmington
- Exhibition: October 30, 2007 - December 6, 2007
- Opening Reception: Friday, November 2 / 5:00 p.m.
- Student Artist Panel Discussion: Sunday, November 18
/ 1:00 p.m.
- Gilliam Lobby Exhibition Space in the Bank of America
- Illustration students from the Delaware College of Art
and Design (DCAD) will display drawings and paintings of Wilmington as
part of this joint project from DCAD, the City of Wilmington's Office of
Cultural Affairs, and the Delaware Art Museum.
- New York City Film Series
- Screening at Theatre N, 1007 N. Orange St., Wilmington,
- Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m.
- October 24, 2007: Ghost
- November 14, 2007: Rear Window
- December 12, 2007: On the Waterfront
- January 9, 2008: Manhattan
- Films set in New York City, individually introduced by
Joyce K. Schiller, Curator, Delaware Art Museum.
- Make & Take Workshops
- First Sunday of the month, 1:00 p.m. 3:00 p.m.
- November 4: Map Making
- December 2: City Snow Globes
- Free art projects for children. Museum admission is free
on Sundays thanks to AstraZeneca.
- Glory of Stories
- Fridays, 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
- A city-themed story-reading leads to a discussion of
works in the exhibition, followed by an art project.
- November 2: Eddie's Kingdom by D.B. Johnson
- November 9: City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male
by Meghan McCarthy
- December 7: Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber
- December 14: Hot City by Barbara Joosse
- December 21: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
(above: John Sloan (1871-1951), Picture Shop Window,
1907-8, oil on canvas, 32 x 25 1/8 inches. Collection of the Newark Museum,
gift of Mrs. Felix Fuld, 1925 (25.1163))
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