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A major American artist in the early 20th century whose depiction of life in his era leaves us with a rich visual history.

John French Sloan (August 2, 1871 – September 7, 1951) was an American artist. As a member of The Eight, he became a leading figure in the Ashcan School of realist artists. He was known for his urban genre painting and ability to capture the essence of neighborhood life in New York City, often through his window. Sloan has been called “the premier artist of the Ashcan School who painted the inexhaustible energy and life of New York City during the first decades of the twentieth century”, and an “early twentieth-century realist painter who embraced the principles of socialism and placed his artistic talents at the service of those beliefs.”

Among John Sloan’s best-known paintings are Hairdresser’s Window (1907), in the Wadsworth Atheneum, The Picnic Ground (1907), in the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Haymarket (1907), in The Brooklyn Museum, and McSorley’s Bar (1912). In 1971, his painting Wake of the Ferry (1907, in The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.) was reproduced on a US postage stamp honoring Sloan.

His students included Alexander Calder, Reginald Marsh, Peggy Bacon, Aaron Bohrod, Barnett Newman, and Norman Raeben. In 1939 he published a book of his teachings, Gist of Art.

In American Visions the critic Robert Hughes praised the influence of “the most lyrical, and politically acerbic of the Ashcan artists, ‘a spectator of life’, as he called himself. Sloan’s work had an honest humane-ness, a frank sympathy, he refused to flatten lower-class New Yorkers into stereotypes of misery, and his strong sense of the moments in which ordinary people are seen unawares, or isolated, was to deeply affect the leading artist of the next generation, Edward Hopper.”

The lobby of the United States Post Office in Bronxville, New York, features a mural by Sloan painted in 1939 and titled The Arrival of the First Mail in Bronxville in 1846. The post office and mural were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.


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