Monday, April 20, 2015

In The Beginning: John Sloan

John Sloan (1871-1951), one of the so-called "Ashcan School" painters, began his artistic career as a newspaper illustrator in Philadelphia and continued that trade in New York City as he pursued his goal to be a painter. (Biographical information on Sloan can be found here.) Even though he eventually mostly painted, he continued to sustain himself economically by illustrating, making etchings and teaching.

When I began planning this post, I had hoped to find examples of his early newspaper work on the Internet. But the best I could manage was to find works from 1900-10 when his newspaper career was largely winding down. I previously wrote about Sloan here, dealing with an odd style he practiced late in his career.

All artists are not entirely consistent with regard to the quality of their work. Sloan strikes me as being more hit-and-miss than most -- mostly on the miss side. In fact, I find it puzzling that he is regarded as favorably as he seems to be. Some of that might be due to the fact that he was associated with a group of (better) artists active at a pivotal point in American art history. Perhaps his political views appeal to a number of art critics and scholars who therefore might be inclined to give his work the benefit of the doubt.

In any case, my take on Sloan is that some of his better work was done as a newspaper illustrator based on examples I've seen in print, but not on the Internet. For what it's worth, below are examples of Sloan's monochrome work from the 1900-10 decade along with a color illustration and one painting.


This is from the Society of Illustrators site that includes a good discussion of Sloan as an illustrator. It's not monochrome like the ones below. Moreover, I think it's a pretty nice example of Art Nouveau illustration. In fact, although I trust the Society of Illustrators, I somehow can't quite believe Sloan actually did this.

Drawing (crayon) - 1903

"Fun, One Cent" - 1905
I find Sloan's illustrations lacking class warfare content most interesting and perhaps even better done; those others take on the feel of political cartoons.

"Memory" - etching - 1906
Sloan and his wife Dolly at at the right.

"Sleepwalker and Hypnotist" - magazine illustration? - 1903
Looks like he dashed this one off.

Election Night - 1907
A sketch of a painting, though one of his better ones from around the same time as the illustration above.

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