John Sloan

(1871 - 1951)

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John Sloan was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania in 1871. Raised in Philadelphia, he left high school in order to help support his family as a designer. In 1892, he joined the staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer as an illustrator. While working for the Inquirer, Sloan met William Glackens, Everett Shinn and George Luks, with whom he enrolled in evening classes at the Pennsylvania Academy. At the Academy he met Robert Henri, who was to become an important friend and mentor to the young Sloan.

In 1904, the group moved to New York City, where Sloan continued to support himself through commercial illustration. When in 1907 the jury for the National Academy exhibition rejected the work of Sloan, Henri, Glackens, Shinn, Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Arthur B, Davies and Ernest Lawson, they decided to band together in an independent exhibition. Known simply as “The Eight” their down-to-earth realism and gritty urban subject matter earned them the sobriquet the “Ash Can School.”   Although initially unpopular with critics, The Eight’s unsympathetic portrayal of working class life was a rebellion against conventional academic subject matter and the first large scale attempt to seek out a truly “American” subject matter.

In 1910, Sloan showed in the Exhibition of Independent Artists, which he also helped organize together with Henri. Although this show caused a critical sensation, it was nothing in comparison to the historical Armory Show of 1913 in which Sloan also participated. The period immediately following the Armory Show was a time of critical development for Sloan’s painting. During this time he became increasingly aware of the social content of his work, as well as his attachment to local scenes and types.

In 1919, on the advice of Henri, Sloan began visiting Santa Fe on a regular basis. Although it consisted of less than 6,000 residents at the time, Santa Fe became a second home to the Sloan and his wife Dolly. In many ways, life in the Southwest had a similar effect on Sloan as New York had upon his arrival there fifteen years before. Sloan was invigorated by the fresh sights and bustling cultural activity, both of his fellow artists and the native residents.