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John Sloan

American Painter

John Sloan Photo
Movements and Styles: Art Nouveau, Ashcan School, American Realism

Born: August 2, 1871 - Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

Died: September 7, 1951 - Hanover, New Hampshire

"Though a living cannot be made at art, art makes life worth living. It makes living, living. It makes starving, living. It makes worry, it makes trouble, it makes a life that would be barren of everything - living. It brings life to life."

Summary

Documenting city life with an unflinching eye, John Sloan's realism was part of an early 20th-century revolution in American art. Turning their backs on the refined subjects and styles of traditional art, the members of The Eight, commonly known as the Ashcan School, captured the everyday experiences of modern life. Sloan was central to the group's formation, and as an agitator for free artistic expression and new exhibition spaces, he was critical in bringing this new style to the public's attention. Along with Robert Henri, Sloan brought American art to both national and international acclaim.

Key Ideas

Part of a circle of artists who studied under Robert Henri, John Sloan was a founding member of the Eight. Often referred to as the Ashcan School, for their straightforward depiction of gritty urban life, they were among the first American artists to challenge the traditional subjects and styles of high art.
John Sloan captured a range of people, including prostitutes and working women, but unlike many of his contemporaries, Sloan did not paint critical or moralizing versions of his subjects. Instead, he presented them to the viewer in an unidealized, but ambiguous fashion, preserving all the details of their unconventional lives without passing judgment.
Inspired by his personal commitment to radical politics, John Sloan was a fierce advocate for artistic freedom. His organizational skills were essential to the foundation of independent venues that exhibited art without the approval of a jury. The largest of these groups, the Society of Independent Artists, would run from 1917-1944 (with Sloan serving as president for all but the first year).
John Sloan Photo

John French Sloan was the oldest child and only son of James Dixon Sloan and Henrietta Ireland Sloan. While his mother's family were wealthy paper and stationery merchants, his father struggled in business. Yet, as an amateur artist, his father encouraged the artistic interests of young Sloan, along with those of of his sister, Marianna, who would also grow up to be an artist. At the age of 16, he left school and began working full-time to support his family.

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