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collections > permanent collection > paintings >JOHN SLOAN
John Sloan
(American, 1871-1951)
Bright Rocks, Gloucester, 1915
Oil on canvas, 20" x 24"
Gift of Gunard Berry Carlson Memorial Foundation in honor of Gunard and Margaret Carlson (74.009)


John Sloan is best known for his Ashcan School figure paintings depicting the lives of the urban poor.  Yet his landscapes are equally noteworthy as masterful displays of brushwork and color.  Vividly painted, but without overt narrative content, Bright Rocks, Gloucester, stands in sharp contrast to the drab settings and sad stories that undergird Sloan’s figural compositions.  As one of a number of similar marines that the artist painted on visits to coastal Massachusetts between 1914 and 1918, Bright Rocks focuses on the interaction of waves, rocks, and light.  As such, it is primarily a formal exercise in observation; yet it remains a finished statement and a striking canvas.


Sloan was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  Commencing his career as a newspaper illustrator, he met Robert Henri, a charismatic painter, teacher, and theorist who would become a close friend and mentor.  As leader of the Ashcan School, Henri influenced Sloan and others to paint scenes from urban life that ran counter to official academic preferences for sanitized and worn-out subject matter.  Settled in New York City by 1904, Sloan in 1908 participated in the first and only exhibition of “The Eight,” a controversial event that propelled him into the forefront of American painting at that time.  Involved in the hanging of the Armory Show in 1913, Sloan studied European modernism first hand, picking up techniques from Cezanne, van Gogh, and others.  He continued to paint urban subjects until about 1930 or so, but branched out to include landscape and, increasingly, the female nude.  The latter subject came to obsess him as his career progressed, and many of Sloan’s later subjects are nudes, which he painted until his death in 1951.