The city that never sleeps


From the turn of the century through the 1930s painter John Sloan captured Manhattan’s mundane occurrences: a housewife hanging laundry out to dry, a couple sunbathing on their roof, a subway updraft lifting a woman’s skirt. Part of the Ashcan School of realist artists, Sloan based his work on observations—from the street and from his Greenwich Village studio’s windows.

The Smart Museum’s new exhibit Seeing the City presents that work alongside the artist’s diaries and letters to explore how Sloan made sense of his rapidly evolving city. In a 1922 diary entry about The City from Greenwich Village he wrote, “Looking south over lower Sixth Avenue from the roof of my Washington Place studio, on a winter evening. The distant lights of the great office buildings downtown are seen in the gathering darkness. The triangular loft building on the right had contained my studio for three years before. Although painted from memory it seems thoroughly convincing in its handling of light and space. The spot on which the spectator stands is now an imaginary point since all the buildings as far as the turn of the elevated have been removed, and Sixth Avenue has been extended straight down to the business district."

Curated by the Delaware Art Museum, the show is the first major traveling exhibition of Sloan's New York images. Seeing the City runs through September 14 at the Smart Museum, stopping next at Winston Salem, NC's Reynolda House Museum of American Art.


Photo: John Sloan, The City from Greenwich Village, 1922, Oil on canvas. Courtesy the Smart Museum of Art.

May 30, 2008