Periods, Groups & Movements: Ashcan School

William Glackens John Sloan John Sloan William Glackens
William Glackens John Sloan Ernest Lawson William Glackens
Hover over images to see artists names.

The opening years of this century were boom years for American cities. Filled with office and factory workers, shopkeepers and immigrants, cities bulged and spread. The city's vigor and variety attracted a band of artists who were to revolutionize American Art. These men were "The Eight"- Arthur Davies, Robert Henri, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, John Sloan and Everett Shinn. Their group exhibition in 1908, a couple of years before the Armory Show, both shocked and educated contemporary taste.

Ashcan Artists
Ashcan School artists and friends at John French
Sloan's Philadelphia Studio, 1898

Spurning the safe road of genteel society portraiture, for which they were all trained, The Eight painted men and machines at work, women at leisure. In time their brand of personalized realism earned them the nickname, "The Ashcan School". This kind of painting was called the Ashcan School because the artists were said to have taken their subject matter from the ash cans and alleyways of the city rather than from the boulevards and gracious homes as did their predecessors, the Impressionists. (quoted from

The Ashcan school is sometimes linked to the group known as "The Eight," though in fact only five members of that group (Henri, Sloan, Glackens, Luks, and Shinn) were Ashcan artists. The other three – Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, and Maurice Prendergast – painted in a very different style, and the exhibition that brought "The Eight" to national attention took place in 1908, several years after the beginning of the Ashcan style. However, the attention accorded the group's well-publicized exhibition at the Macbeth Galleries in New York 1908 was such that Ashcan art gained wider exposure and greater sales and critical attention than it had known before.

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George Bellows Hardcover – Prestel Publishing; 1st Ed. edition (May 9, 2012)

This wide-ranging retrospective of an American genius covers, for the first time, every stage of George Bellows' short but prolific career and is destined to become the definitive work for Bellows scholarship. Published in conjunction with a major retrospective exhibition, this book documents the artist's career from his youthful meteoric rise to the largely unexplored period preceding his death. Mentored by Robert Henri, leader of the Ashcan school in New York in the early part of the twentieth century, Bellows skillfully and audaciously painted the world around him: street children, tenements, boxers, urban and rural landscapes, seascapes, war scenes, and family portraiture.

John Sloan's New York by Joyce K. Schiller, Heather Campbell Coyle, Molly S. Hutton, Susan Fillin-Yeh (Author), Katherine E. Manthorne, Alexis L. Boylan - Hardcover: 208 pages; Publisher: Delaware Museum of Art; 1st edition (November 29, 2007)

An American Experiment: George Bellows and the Ashcan Painters (National Gallery London) by David Peters Corbett – Paperback (March 29, 2011)

In the first decades of the 20th century, George Bellows and other painters of the Ashcan School, a loosely connected group of gritty, urban realists, created images of the city from street level. Following older artist Robert Henri's insistence that artists should make "pictures from life," the Ashcanners renounced the polished academic style taught in art schools of the time. Instead they practiced a more urgent manner working with bold, highly saturated color, seeking to catch the ebb and flow of life in urban America. Some of them, particularly Bellows, also produced vivid landscapes and portraits.

This book introduces the artists of the Ashcan School and the key characteristics and themes of their work. Detailed commentaries are provided for twelve significant paintings by George Bellows, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, and John Sloan, ranging from depictions of the metropolitan throng to Bellows's vivid seascapes. In their visual contemplation of early-20th-century America, these artists offer deep insights into the nature of ordinary life not only in their time but also in our own.

Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York by Rebecca Zurier, Robert W. Snyder, Virginia M. Mecklenburg – Hardcover (January 1996) W.W. Norton & Company

Between 1897 and 1917, six painters, none native to the city they so provocatively and energetically portrayed, challenged the standards for suitable artistic subject matter when they took to the streets of New York and seized on images full of motion and life. Their "prophet" was Walt Whitman, and their achievements create a vibrant record of urban growth and artistic evolution. George Bellows, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan were friends and collaborators, each developing their own distinct style, each capturing different slices of New York life. There are scenes of poverty and wealth, work and play, sensuality and despair. Zurier and her coauthors, Robert Snyder and Virginia Mecklenburg, bring expertise in art, social, and cultural history to this lively volume. They profile each artist and analyze his works, establishing a visual context with photographs and graphic arts of the time. Most of the paintings, which are beautifully reproduced, are rarely seen in books, and some, especially Shinn's exceptional pastels and watercolors, are a revelation.

Revolutionaries of Realism: The Letters of John Sloan and Robert Henri by John Sloan, Robert Henri, Bennard B. Perlman (Editor), Bennard Perlman – Hardcover, 376 pages, Princeton Univ Press, 1997

"The letters are a delight absorbing, colorfully written, clever, sometimes profound, full of valuable information and insights. The book will be useful for the scholar and a pleasure for the literate generalist." David W. Scott, Author of John Sloan. In the saga of American art's coming-of-age, Robert Henri (1865-1929) and John Sloan (1871-1951) stand tall among those in the vanguard of the campaign. These two major American artists were kindred spirits who maintained a special friendship throughout their lives, from the moment they met in 1892 until Henri's death thirty-seven years later.

Painters of the Ashcan School: The Immortal Eight by Bennard Perlman, Bennard B. Perlman – Paperback (December 1989) Dover Pubns

Lively, scholarly, beautifully illustrated study of the 8 artists who brought a compelling new realism to American painting, 1870 to 1913. Henri, Glackens, Sloan, Luks, 4 more. 142 black-and-white illustrations. Bibliography. Introduction.

Painters of a New Century: The Eight & American Art by Elizabeth Milroy – Paperback (August 1991) Milwaukee Art Museum

Painters of a New Century celebrates the painters of the groundbreaking 1908 exhibition known as "the Eight"—Arthur Davies, William Glackens, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shin, and John Sloan. According to Milroy, they "transformed the art exhibition into political statement and media event and shifted forever the relationship between the American artist and the American public."

Robert Henri: His Life and Art by Bennard B. Perlman – Paperback, 176 pages (July 1991) Dover Pubns

The Art Spirit: Notes, Articles, Fragments of Letters and Talks to Students, Bearing on the Concept and Technique of Picture Making, the Study of Art by Robert Henri, Margery A. Ryerson (Editor) – Paperback, 284 pages, Reprint edition (April 1984) Icon (Harpe)

Within his treatise on art and its many facets, well-known artist and teacher Robert Henri shares insight on the making and viewing of art. He offers insight on areas which all artists must eventually come to terms with, including proportion, technique, color, style, and subject matter. He discloses a lifetime of his personal "life-lessons" about his own art and his personal struggles as an artist, and he shares honestly the perils and triumphs of both he and his students. In a mere moment the reader learns lessons about art and its making which take artists years to learn. This book is a joy in every sense of the word—from Henri's suggestions on rendering light reflecting from a woman's lower lip to his secrets to making a portrait "glow". Henri's The Art Spirit is a must-read for any reader interested in any aspect of art. —A classic.

My People: The Portraits of Robert Henri by Valerie Ann Leeds – Paperback, 119 pages, Published by Univ of Washington Press, 1995

The Lives, Loves, and Art of Arthur B. Davies by Bennard B. Perlman, Arthur B. Davies – Hardcover, 512 pages (August 1998) State Univ of New York Press

Publishers Weekly: Painter Arthur B. Davies (1862-1928) emerges as an odious and, probably, deeply disturbed man in the detailed account of his life by researcher and writer Perlman (Robert Henri: His Life and Art). Davies (like Henri) exhibited with the group of painters known as The Eight, and as president of the Association of America Painters and Sculptors, he introduced European modern art to the American public by organizing the 1913 Armory Show. But Davies built his career by gaining the affection of women whom he neglected badly once they bore his children. He found the refuge he sought—a place where he had neither financial nor emotional responsibilities—in art. But, as this fascinating biography attests, his freedoms cost others dearly. 101 illustrations (16 in color).

William Glackens by William H. Gerdts, Jorge H. Santis, William J. Glackens – 1st Edition, Hardcover, 279 pages, Published by Abbeville Press, 1996

Chapters: 1. Early Life and Travels 2. The Illustrator 3. New York Scenes 4. A Brief Honeymoon Abroad 5. From the Eight to Renoir 6. In the Park and at the Beach 7. The Late Work

William Glackens and the Eight: The Artists Who Freed American Art by Ira Glackens – Revised, Paperback, Published by Writers & Readers, 1990

Maurice Prendergast by Nancy Mowell Matthews, Nancy Mowell Mathews – Hardcover, 196 pages (August 1997) International Book Import Service, Inc.

This monograph reflects the many aspects of the artist's genius, from his early Impressionist street and beach scenes to his middle phase of pointillist still lifes and his later colorful, more flattened figurative paintings

The Unknown Pastels by Maurice Brazil Prendergast Paperback (December 1987) Universe Pub

22 Full-color reproductions, B/W illustrations, and an essay by Warren Adelson, director of the Coe Kerr Gallery.

George Bellows: Painter of America by Charles H. MORGAN Hardcover Publisher: Reynal (1965)

Ernest Lawson, American impressionist 1873-1939 by Henry D. Hill

Descriptions and histories of the 1,265 oils by John Sloan (1871-1951), more than 1,000 of which are illustrated. Includes critical commentary, the artist's own comments, and an analysis of Sloan's work and his role in American painting. Indexing by title and subject. Illustrated.

A Christmas Carol: In Prose Being a Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens, Everett Shinn (Illustrator) – Hardcover, 164 pages (October 1997) Stewart Tabori & Chang

William Glackens 4 by Avis Berman (Editor), Elizabeth Thompson Colleary (Contributor), Heather Campbell Coyle (Contributor), Judith F. Dolkart (Contributor), Alicia G. Longwell (Contributor) - Hardcover: 288 pages; Publisher: Skira Rizzoli; 1st edition (February 18, 2014)

A monumental new monograph accompanying the first major retrospective in fifty years of the work of William Glackens, an important American realist painter. This richly illustrated volume provides a comprehensive introduction to William Glackens (1870-1938), one of the liveliest and most influential American painters of the early twentieth century. A founder of the Ashcan School, along with painters such as Robert Henri and John Sloan, Glackens was crucial to the introduction of modern art in the United States through his collaboration with Albert C. Barnes and his championing of landmark exhibitions of American and European avant-garde art.

The Eight and American Modernisms by Elizabeth Kennedy (Editor) – Hardcover (March 15, 2009)

Frustrated by the art world’s elitism and the snobbish exclusivity of the academy’s juries, eight American painters united in 1908 to upend the establish norms and stage their own exhibition of modernist art. Led by the charismatic Robert Henri, they came to be known as "The Eight," and their two-week show at New York’s Macbeth Galleries drew a multitude of visitors, who crowded into the galleries to critique the much-publicized work of these "revolutionary" artists. Their paintings of urban scenes marked a significant departure from the prevailing style—which emphasized physical and natural beauty—and met with critical success.

The established chronicle maintains that the Eight were rendered dysfunctional and artistically irrelevant after European modernism arrived in the United States at the 1913 Armory Show. The Eight and American Modernisms revises this account and reevaluates these respected artists’ careers, including their late works. Accompanying a traveling exhibition, this lushly illustrated volume challenges the accepted wisdom about the evolution of the modernist style. In addition to Henri, "The Eight" included William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, John French Sloan, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, and Maurice Prendergast.

Robert Henri in Santa Fe: His Work and Influence by Valerie Ann Leeds – Paperback (December 1, 2011)

Robert Henri (1865-1929) spent time in Santa Fe in 1916, 1917, 1922 and 1925 during which time he produced some thirty portraits, mainly of Hispanic and Indian subjects. His enthusiasm for New Mexico brought a number of artists to the area, including John Sloan and George Bellows. Henri crusaded actively against academic conservatism, enlisting younger artists (such as Sloan) and his students (Bellows, Edward Hopper, Morgan Russell, and Stuart Davis) in the cause of artistic freedom and unflinching realism, a belief that led his detractors to dub Henri's group the "Ashcan" school. In 1908 Henri and other members of the Ashcan "Eight" achieved notoriety with their exhibit at Macbeth Gallery in New York. When Henri met Dr. Edgar Hewitt of Santa Fe's School of American Archaeology in 1914, the museum director urged Henri to paint in New Mexico. Henri's strong personality and liberal ideas regarding museum policy, particularly unjuried exhibitions, left a lasting imprint on the newly opened Museum of New Mexico.

Picturing the City: Urban Vision and the Ashcan School (Ahmanson-Murphy Fine Arts Books) by Rebecca Zurier Hardcover: 418 pages Publisher: University of California Press (September 6, 2006)

Picturing the City takes an innovative look at the group of urban realists known as the Ashcan School, and at the booming cultures of vision and representation in early twentieth-century New York. Offering fresh insights into the development of modern cities and modern art in America, Rebecca Zurier considers what it meant to live in a city where strangers habitually watched each other and public life seemed to consist of continual display, as new classes of immigrants and working women claimed their places in the metropolis. Through her study of six artists—George Bellows, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan—Zurier illuminates the quest for new forms of realism to describe changes in urban life, commercial culture, and codes of social conduct in the early 1900s.

Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush with Leisure, 1895-1925 by James Tottis (Author), Valerie Ann Leeds, Vincent Digirolamo, Marianne Doezema, Suzanne Smeaton - Hardcover: 216 pages; Publisher: Merrell Publishers (July 1, 2007)

The images that are often associated with the Ashcan school of artists are the more sombre depictions of working-class life in early twentieth-century New York. This subject matter is not, however, representative of the entire spectrum of Ashcan art. Featuring some of the Ashcan school's most vibrant and outstanding works, this book demonstrates unequivocally the zeal with which these artists and their circle embraced the world of play enjoyed by all levels of society.

Maurice Prendergast (Library of American Art) by Richard J. Wattenmaker – Hardcover, 160 pages (September 1994) Harry N Abrams

Midwest Book Review: Maurice Prendergast's joyous , light-filled canvases have made him one of America's best-loved painters. His unique perception endowed his sensuous experiments in pattern and texture, in atmosphere and light with a stature achieved by few artists. Working in the last decade of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th, he perfected his distinctive style, becoming one of the great colorists of all time. This first comprehensive monograph on Prendergast contributes a wealth of new scholarship. Based on letters, sketchbooks, and contemporary articles and reviews, it also brings to life an exciting and pivotal era, for Prendergast was in the forefront of modern painting in America. His experiences while living and working in Europe allowed him to draw on a wide variety of sources—including the works of Cezanne, Signac, the Italian Renaissance painters, and Watteau. Out of these he created his own truly unique idiom. 127 illustrations, including 52 in full color, and a bibliography grace this splendid volume.

Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonne. the Maurice and Charles Prendergast Systmatic Catalogue Project. by Carol Clark, Nancy Mowll Mathews, Gwendolyn Owens Hardcover (October 1990), Williams College Museum of Art

John Sloan on Drawing and Painting by John Sloan Paperback: 252 pages Publisher: Dover Publications (April 13, 2000)

Highly regarded member of the "Ashcan School" of American painting, John Sloan was also a remarkable teacher, as evidenced by this illustrated, practical record of his talks and instructional advice. Sloan discusses line, tone, texture, light and shade, composition, design, space, perspective, and related issues. Later chapters deal with figure drawing, painting, landscape and mural painting, painting technique, etching and other media. Each chapter features a wealth of helpful suggestions and exercises, plus numerous illustrations.

John Sloan: Painter and Rebel by John Loughery – Paperback, 464 pages Reprint edition (December 1997) Henry Holt (Paper)

Documenting New York City's cultural coming-of-age, a historical biography of an American painter and propagandist reveals the social and political scene of the early 1900s, including Sloan's activist wife Dolly, John Butler Yeats and his sons, and Max Eastman.

John Sloan's Oil Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonne by Rowland Elzea – Hardcover (February 1992) Associated Univ Press

Descriptions and histories of the 1,265 oils by John Sloan (1871-1951), more than 1,000 of which are illustrated. Includes critical commentary, the artist's own comments, and an analysis of Sloan's work and his role in American painting. Indexing by title and subject. Illustrated.

Paintings of George Bellows by Michael Quick Paperback: 261 pages Publisher: Amon Carter Museum (June 1992)

Best remembered for his sporting scenes, American realist painter George Bellows had an enormous range of subject interests, as revealed by this splendid catalogue of a touring exhibition. Bellows's late, joyful landscapes, done shortly before his death from appendicitis in 1925, are delirious explosions of color. His purest seascapes crystallize nature's elemental power, recalling one of his principal influences, Winslow Homer. Frequently portraying a mix of ethnic and social classes in the modern metropolis, Bellows contributed to the socialist magazine The Masses and occasionally assumed the role of social critic, as in Cliff Dwellers , a chaotic street scene crowded with immigrants. In incisive essays complemented by 210 plates (75 in color) five noted scholars of American art examine the evolution of Bellows's exuberant realism, his experimental response to the New York scene, his simultaneous attraction to and fear of the sea and his portraiture as a repository for intangible values.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

George Bellows and Urban America by Marianne Doezema – Hardcover: 244 pages Publisher: Yale University Press (April 1, 1992)

Bellows's (1882-1925) paintings of New York in the early decades of the 20th century captured the city's bigness and boldness without sentimentality or sanitation. In this highly illustrated volume (including 18 color plates), Doezema explores why it was that Bellows's paintings—despite being considered coarse in technique and subject matter—were acclaimed by critics and patrons, by conservatives, progressives, and radicals alike. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.

Bellows was never officially a member of the Ashcan School, however, because he did not participate in their initial 1908 exhibition at McBeth gallery. Biographers speculate this may have been because Bellows was a decade younger than most of the other artists in this group. Nonetheless, Bellows soon began showing his works in major exhibitions and in 1909 at the age of 27 became one of the youngest artists to be elected to the National Academy of Design.

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