Saturday, October 4, 2014

John Sloan

John Sloan (1871-1951)

John Sloan was born in 1871 in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania and grew up in Philadelphia, where he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1892 he joined the art staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and in 1904 Sloan and his wife Dolly moved to New York. Here he continued to work as an illustrator and became increasingly interested in depicting city life and city scenes. Sloan was known to be “a sympathetic and understanding observer of class consciousness, crowd psychology and the bitter ironies of life” as he often portrays important historical events in his artwork [4]. Sloan took on many styles and techniques, including printmaking, portrait painting, landscapes, etching, and female nude until his death in 1951 [2].

Four of the Eight, 1899, Pencil, 15 x 10 in., Chapellier Galleries
Sloan uses strong, dark, messy pencil strokes, but still achieves great detail. I love how this drawing looks so complex yet so simple. One of my favorite things about Sloan’s art is that when you look closely, his strokes, whether pencil, paint, or etches, are rather expressive and messy. However, when you look at the images from a distance, nothing is missing and they are beautiful. He captures emotion, detail, light, space, and subtlety where necessary although it looks as if some of his drawings could have taken him five minutes. It is amazing how he uses such expressive lines to make an image look so realistic, detailed, and effortless.

Going Through the Hired Man’s Trunk, 1920, Ink and crayon on paper, 
10.5 x 11.5 in., Delaware Art Museum

This image tells the story of two young boys growing up in a small midwestern town that used to go through “the hired man’s” trunk to see what they could find. I love the use of lines in this picture, as Sloan manages to “shade in” his drawing just by making them darker or softer in certain areas. He also uses overlapping strokes in a lot of these darker areas and/or crisscrossing lines to show textured areas, such as on carpet, clothing, or walls.

No Caption, 1903, Crayon and pencil on illustration
board, 25 x 19 in., Delaware Art Museum

This image illustrates an old humor story “The Genial Idiot” by John Kendrick Bang in which an eccentric bachelor gives advice on various subjects during dinner in his house. This image is different from the others I have chosen to post in that it appears to be more delicate and without as many strong, hard strokes that are commonly seen in Sloan’s work. Here, Sloan still uses expressive lines to create texture and darkness in some areas, however, the majority of the lines, although still expressive, are softer and mainly used for shading purposes. There aren’t as many overlapping lines, and I think its beautiful how this gives the image a more gentle appearance.

The Show Case, 1905, Etching, 5 x 7 in., Delaware Art Museum
This image shows a group of ladies observing the new corset display in a window case at a shop. The display of female undergarments attracted many people, however women groups thought the displays were immoral and began a series of protests that continued into the 1900s. Although etched on a metal plate and on a relatively small surface, Sloan still was able to achieve amazing detail in his work, including facial expressions, spatial relationships, color contrast, and even the softness and detailing of clothing.

Looking Out on Washington Square, 1933, Tempera with oil varnish 
glaze on panel, 30 x 36 in., Kraushaar Galleries, New York
In this painting, Sloan shows the urban life view from his apartment, while also capturing the studio scene inside where he works, including the nude model. This is an effect of two paintings in one, as Sloan used two different painting techniques: one being a graphic texturing in the studio and the other being a cityscape style in the view outside. Again, you see how Sloan can make an image look clean and realistic even though it is done with semi-messy strokes and paint.

Works Cited

[1] Coco, Janice M.. John Sloan's women: a psychoanalysis of vision. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004. Print.

[2] Cummings, Paul. "John Sloan." American Drawings: The 20th Century. New York: Viking, 1976. 31-33. Print.

[3] Elzea, Rowland, and Elizabeth H. Hawkes. John Sloan: spectator of life. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Art Museum, 1988. Print.

[4] "John Sloan - Bio." John Sloan - Bio. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2014. <>.

[5] Sloan, John. John Sloan: paintings, prints, drawings.. Hanover, N.H.: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 1981. Print.

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