Editor's note: The following article was reprinted in Resource Library on February 24, 2009 with permission of the Asheville Art Museum. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, please contact the Asheville Art Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:



 

Ashcans, Trains and Factories: Students and Followers of the Eight

by Frank Thomson

 

 

 
Painting is the expression of ideas in their permanent form. It is the giving of evidence. It is the study of our lives, our environment. The American who is useful as an artist is one who studies his own life and records his experiences; in this way he gives evidence.
 
- Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

 

This exhibition, drawn from the Museum's permanent collection, examined the work of various students of the American artists known as The Eight.[i] To aid in exploring the works in Ashcans, Trains and Factories: Students and Followers of the Eight, the exhibition labels listed teachers for each artist.[ii]

In addition to their participation in the groundbreaking secessionist exhibition at Macbeth Gallery in 1908, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks and John Sloan helped create as well as taught at various art schools, and were as noted for their talents as visionary teachers as they were for their creative skills. In addition to formal instruction, most of The Eight also had apprentices or private students.

Henri was the best known artist of The Eight, and was also the one most sought after as a charismatic instructor. Margerie Ryerson, one of Henri's students, wrote down his classroom comments and assembled them into a book, The Art Spirit. Originally published in 1923, this book continues to influence artists and art students in the 21st century

In 1892 Henri started teaching at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. While in Philadelphia, he worked with William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn and John Sloan, the core of the group that would later form The Eight. In 1900, Henri moved to New York, where he became an extremely popular teacher of such artists as Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows and Stuart Davis. In New York, Henri taught at the Art Students League, The New York School of Art (originally called the Chase School) and the Henri School.

Lawson taught at a number of schools including the Kansas City Art Institute in 1926, the Broadmoor Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado from 1927 to 1928 and in Hartford, Connecticut in 1933.

Luks taught at the Art Students League from 1920 to 1924. Along with Eugene Thomason, one of his former students, he ran a small art school devoted to teaching advanced students.

Sloan taught at a number of schools, but is most noted for his long tenure with the Art Students League. He taught there from 1914 to 1926 and from 1935 to 1937. He served as president of the school from 1930 to 1932.

Both collectively and individually the artists of The Eight led the way in developing academies where American art students could learn without having to travel to Europe and inspired a generation of artists to look at the world around them. These students had a major impact on American art through at least World War II.

Some of their students such as Bellows were deeply involved with what came to be known as the "Ash Can" school. Others, including Reginald Marsh were part of the American Scene or Regionalist school that flowed almost directly from the teachings of The Eight. Artists such as Elizabeth Olds worked with the WPA's Federal Artist Project that emphasized a realistic look at life during the Great Depression.

The Eight, their students and followers not only captured the essence of life in early 20th century America, they also helped define the American spirit of that time. After World War II, with a rising interest in abstract art, much of this work was abandoned. But with the start of the 21st century artists, collectors and scholars have rediscovered this rich period in American art.

i Robert Henri (1865-1929), William Glackens (1870-1938), John Sloan (1871-1951), George Luks (1866-1933), Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924), Ernest Lawson (1873-1939) and Everett Shinn (1876-1953)

ii George Bellows (1882-1925) studied with Robert Henri at the New York School of Art and at the Henri School of Art.

 


 

Robert Brackman (1898-1980) studied with Robert Henri at the National Academy of Design.

Guy Pene du Bois (1884-1958) studied with Robert Henri at William Merritt Chase's school, later known as The New York School of Art.

Arnold Friedman (1879-1946) studied with Robert Henri at the Art Students League.

Joseph Hirsch (1910-1981) studied with George Luks.

Jacob Kainen (1909-2001) studied at the Art Students League in 1925, while Robert Henri and John Sloan were teaching there. His primary instructor was Kimon Nicolaides who was a student of Sloan's.

George Luks discovered a ten-year-old Alexander Z. Kruse (1888-1972) sketching on Grand Street in New York City. Luks encouraged Kruse to study art. He studied at the East Side Educational Alliance, the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. Among Kruse's teachers were Robert Henri, George Luks and John Sloan.

Jack Markow (1905-1983) studied at the Art Students League from 1922 to 1929 during this time Robert Henri, George Luks and John Sloan were teaching there.

Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) studied with George Luks and John Sloan at the Art Students League.

Leo Meissner (1895-1977) studied with Robert Henri and George Luks at the Art Students League.

Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991) studied with George Luks at the Art Students from 1921 to 1923.

Walter Pach (1883-1958) studied with Robert Henri at the New York School of Art.

Betty Waldo Parish (1910-1986) studied with John Sloan at the Art Students League.

Eugene Speicher (1883-1962) took evening classes with Robert Henri at the Henri School of Art in 1908.

Harry LeRoy Taskey (1892-1958) studied with Robert Henri and John Sloan.

Eugene Thomason (1895-1972) studied with George Luks at the Art Students League. Later, Luks and Thomason taught advanced art students at their own school.

Mildred Emerson Williams (1892-1967) studied with Robert Henri, George Luks and John Sloan.

 

About the author

Frank Thomson is the curator of the exhibition Ashcans, Trains and Factories: Students and Followers of The Eight and is Curator of the Asheville Art Museum. Ashcans, Trains and Factories: Students and Followers of The Eight was held at the Museum September 19, 2008 through February 1, 2009.

 

(above: Elizabeth Olds, Pittsburgh, 1935, lithograph, 12 x 16 inches. Gift of Thelma Lowenstein. Asheville Art Museum Collection.)

Resource Library editor's note

The above text was reprinted in Resource Library on February 24, 2009 with with permission of the Asheville Art Museum, which was granted to TFAO on February 18, 2009.

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Kim Zdanowicz of the Asheville Art Museum for her help concerning permissions for reprinting the above text.

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