John Sloan
American painter



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John Sloan
American painter
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Birth Date

August 02, 1871

Death Date

September 07, 1951

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Sloan’s middle name is French.  No, I mean it’s literally the word “French.”  

He was born in the Big Apple in 1871 to James and Henrietta Sloan.  The former struggled financially, hopping from one job to the next, while the latter came from a more financially stable family and kept the household roof on their heads.  The pressure of family life eventually caused James to have a severe mental breakdown, leaving him unable to provide for the family at all.  It fell to John to take the mantle of breadwinner, which led to him dropping out of school to become an assistant cashier at a bookstore.  Thanks, deadbeat dad!

Little did little John know that this would be where his artistic career would begin.  The cashier job wasn’t too work-intensive, giving him downtime to take a look at the art books on sale.  Fascinated by the works he saw, he began to copy them down in pen and ink, eventually catching the eye of the owner, who loved them so much he displayed them on the front window of the store.  By 1890 he took up a new job at a stationery and greeting card store where he designed the merchandise himself.  

Inspired and determined, he tried to go about working as an artist commercially with less than ideal results, forcing him to fall back on a job as an illustrator for the Philadelphia Enquirer and the Philadelphia Press, while taking art classes at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts at night.  There he met William Glackens and Robert Henri, who became his mentor and gave him Impressionist and Renaissance artwork to study and reproduce.  More on those two later.

At the age of twenty-seven, he met his first wife Anna Maria Wall in the most romantic of locales: a brothel.  “Dolly,” as she would affectionately be called, worked at a department store for a day job but had to partake in the oldest profession at night to make ends meet.  Unfortunately, she also came packaged with a rampant case of alcoholism that brought about numerous physical effects and a whole bag of mental insecurity.  For the maladjusted, socially-awkward Sloan, it was still love at first sight and he was determined to see things through. By 1906, his unwavering devotion to her would drive him to, at the advice of medical professionals, make a diary for her, every entry in it reinforcing his love and support for seven years straight.  Their marriage survived and grew stronger until her untimely death to coronary heart disease in 1943.  Guys, if Sloan can do it for her, you can for your significant other too.

In 1904, Sloan and Dolly moved to Greenwich Village in New York.  By 1908, he solidified his place in American art history as a member of The Eight at their only exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery.  With Glackens, Henri, himself, and five others, their work signaled a shift in American art towards more ordinary and authentic subject matter in what would be called the “Ashcan School.”  The Ashcan painters would use European techniques to paint the ordinary, grounded experiences of the average American citizen, shifting focus away from the fantastic, Neo-classical influences of Old Europe.

Supplemented by newspaper and magazine commissions, he forged a stable life for himself, occasionally going out to McSorley’s with the boys for a pint or two to unwind.  The bar itself not only became The Eight’s favorite spot for libations, but also Sloan’s subject for his most famous works. His love for the ordinary person and their day-to-day life eventually caused him to join the Socialist Party by 1910, opposing both American involvement in international war and the growing corporate powers.  He co-founded the Society of Independent Artists in 1916, which was responsible for allowing Diego Rivera his first exhibition in 1920.

Sloan’s later life was supplemented by teaching, by which he managed to become director of the Art Students’ League by 1931.  He eventually died on September 7th, 1951, survived by his second wife, Helen Farr, who was forty years younger than him and was responsible for the survival of most of his works to the present day. 




  1. Jonathan5485, Author. "McSorley's Bar by John Sloan." My Daily Art Display. August 12, 2011. Accessed February 18, 2019.
  2. Torchia, Robert. "John Sloan." National Gallery of Art. September 29, 2016. Accessed February 18, 2019.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about John Sloan

John French Sloan (August 2, 1871 – September 7, 1951) was an American painter and etcher. He is considered to be one of the founders of the Ashcan school of American art. He was also a member of the group known as The Eight. He is best known for his urban genre scenes and ability to capture the essence of neighborhood life in New York City, often observed through his Chelsea studio 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."

Check out the full Wikipedia article about John Sloan.