< back

John Sloan


"Consistency is the quality of a stagnant mind"

John Sloan was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania on August, 2 1871 and moved with his family to Philadelphia in 1876.  As a teenager he worked for an art gallery / book store in Philadelphia.  One of the items the gallery carried was old master prints and it was here that John Sloan developed his appreciation of printmaking.  His first print dates from 1888, the image is a copy of a Rembrandt etching.  He had made over 100 etchings before he began his most important series of etchings called New York Life. He continued to pursue printmaking as one of his artistic expressive mediums throughout his life producing over 331 etchings and lithographs before his death.

His first job as an artist was in 1891 working as an illustrator for the Philadelphia Enquirer.  The next year he began studying with Thomas Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  While at the academy John Sloan met Robert Henri and he started spending time in Henri’s studio along with George Luks, William Glackens and Everett Shinn.  This group would become known as the Philadelphia Five.  Sloan left the Enquirer and took a position with the Philadelphia Press in 1895.  Robert Henri encouraged Sloan to take painting more seriously in 1896 and he began painting portraits.

He married Dolly in 1901 and after leaving the Philadelphia Press in 1903 moved to New York City to join Robert Henri, George Luks, William Glackens, and Everett Shinn and to pursue a career as an artist and printmaker.  This group had trouble showing paintings at the National Academy of Design, which at the time was a dominating institution.  In 1908 Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, George Luks, Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn and John Sloan under the leadership of Robert Henri arranged a protest exhibition aimed at the Academy, held at the Macbeth Gallery in New York City.  The show was a media sensation and the artists involved with the exhibition were named The Eight.  John Sloan would later be associated with The Ashcan School.  The group was largely responsible for helping organize the 1913 Armory Show which introduced Modern European art to America.  John Sloan exhibited a painting at the Armory Show.  Also in 1913 John Sloan sold his first painting Nude in a Green Scarf to a Philadelphia collector.

In 1912 John Sloan became director of the Masses a socialist magazine.  He was able to get many of his fellow artists to submit images for the publication.  In 1914 he began teaching at the Art Students League taking a full time position in 1916.  He continued to teach at the league until 1938 serving for one year 1930 as the president of the League.  Through the years he had hundreds of students some of the notable names include Reginald Marsh, Raphael Soyer and Alexander Calder.

He spent summers in New England early in the century.  In 1919 Robert Henri encouraged him to come out to Santa Fe and in 1920 he and Dolly purchased a summer home in Santa Fe where he spent four months of every year, with the exception of one, for the rest of his life.  He served as President of the Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts in the 1930s and lobbied the Society of Independent Artists to include work by Native Americans in their exhibitions.

After the death of Dolly in 1943 he married a longtime friend, Helen Farr.  I met Helen Farr Sloan in Washington, D.C. in 1985.  She walked up to me and told he how much fun she and John had in my gallery purchasing scenes of New York City.  Being a third generation art dealer I was amazed that no one had ever told me that John Sloan had been in the gallery.  When I arrived back at the shop a few days later I looked up his account and was pleased to see that what he purchased most were New York City street scene illustrations from the nineteenth century.