barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

John Sloan (1871-1951)

Connoisseurs of Prints (New York City Life Series)

New York, 1905


Plate: 12.4 x 17.5 cm; sheet: 25.1 x 32. 9 cm


John Sloan (1871-1951) moved from Philadelphia to New York in 1904 to pursue his career as a commercial illustrator and his calling as an observer of city life in paint, pen and print. The New York City Life etchings (1905-6) record his first encounters with a modern city shaped by immigration and cosmopolitanism, densely packed tenements and elevated trains, and new forms of popular culture and new ways of life. Conceived as a cohesive portfolio, the ten prints offer a panorama of contrasting circumstances and experiences from wealthy Fifth Avenue to Sloan’s working-class Chelsea neighbourhood, from art exhibitions to sleeping on the roof.

Sloan had mixed feelings about art critics and connoisseurs, needing their support to advance his career, but unconvinced by much of their rhetoric. He noted that Russell Sturgis had ‘the art critic’s way of pointing out line combinations, and light and shade arrangements as the “charm” of the picture’. Here he punctures pretensions by suggesting that the monocle-wielding connoisseur is actually appraising a female gallery-goer’s bottom.

Gifted by Delaware Art Museum and the Helen Farr Sloan Estate in 2017 (No. 2017.1/1)

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