John French Sloan

Photo added by Linda Davis

John French Sloan

Lock Haven, Clinton County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 7 Sep 1951 (aged 80)
Hanover, Grafton County, New Hampshire, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered
Memorial ID 91708514 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Artist. He is remembered for being one of the four artists who established the Ashcan School of Art, which was an artistic movement in the United States during the early 20th century that is best known for works portraying scenes in the poorer neighborhoods of New York City. At that time, many thought this subject was vulgar, inappropriate, and undesirable. He was a painter, etcher and lithographer, cartoonist, and book illustrator. He was a student of artist Robert Henri. Sloan, along with Henri and six other artists, exhibited together as “The Eight,” which gave rise to the Ashcan School of Art. Throughout his lifetime, he taught, for an income, art periodically but was more interested in social reform; he did illustrations for “Masses,” a monthly magazine that was graphically innovative by socialist politics. He was a member of the Socialist Party. His best period in art was from 1900 to 1920. By looking out of his New York City apartment window, he was inspired to such works as “Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair” and “McSorley's Bar” in 1912 and “Backyards, Greenwich Village” in 1914. His pieces were usually sympathetic portrayals of the working class men and women done in a realistic style in bright colors. At times he would do more romantic melancholy pieces such as “Wake of the Ferry” in 1907. Showing a sharp satiric note in his work, he produced “Fifth Avenue Critics.” Early on as a child, it was clear that he had a natural talent. His father was an artist and his mother a school teacher. After his father had a mental breakdown, he, as the oldest of three children, left school at the age of sixteen to work as a cashier. While working in book stores, he sold his works along with greeting cards and calendars for income. He was self-taught with much determined practice; at night, he did attend drawing classes at Spring Garden Institute. In 1892 he was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he first met Henri. In 1901 he married Anna Maria Wall or “Dolly,” whose personality was the very opposite of a quiet, somewhat-shy artist.By 1903 he had produced at least sixty oil paintings but was considered to be a “starving artist”. He left for New York City in 1904 where he did illustrations for books including 54 of them for French novelist Charles de Kock. The two men had much in common as their subjects were the common working people. In 1904 Sloan made an etching of an elderly de Kock sitting in a chair, which was printed in black ink on wove paper. He also worked free lance for several newspapers. His first break was a show at the Macbeth Galleries. Since he was a Socialist and Pacifist, he was deferred from military in World War I. Starting in 1914 and ending in 1938, he was a teacher at the New York Art Students League, where a great number of contemporary artists were influenced by his informative talks on the art theory. He also taught at the George Luks Art School. Cat lovers were great fans of his paintings as he would put a cat in a painting as if an after thought or the very center of attention. During World War I, he spent his summers in Massachusetts changing his dark-colored paints for paler ones. In 1919 and with Henri's encouragement, he joined the Santa Fe Art Colony in New Mexico for his summers. Loving the southwest, he painted subjects such as the streets of desert towns and Native American tribal dancing. In the 1930s, he became the President of the Exposition of Indian Tribal Art and lobbied for the Society of Independent Artists to include Native Americans. After moving to Santa Fe, his style changed from realistic with bright and dark-colored paints to using pale colors with an impressionist style of avoiding a clear form. In 1936, he had a show of 100 etchings at the Whitney Museum in New York City and in 1937 returned for another show, “New York Realist: 1900 to 1920,” which were the early city scenes that he received the most praise. In 1939 he published “The Gist of Art,” which became a learning tool for many artists. Over the years, he painted at least six self portraits. In his later years, Sloan turned back to the art Nouveau motifs that had characterized his early work. After his first wife died in 1943, he married the next year Helen Farr, a former student. In 1951 a decline on his health prevented traveling from New York City to Santa Fe, subsequently the couple spent the summer in New Hampshire. In August he was diagnosed with cancer and died within weeks after surgery. The following January after his death, The Whitney Museum of American Art presented, in honor and memory, a retrospective of his career. Upon his death, his wife donated 6,000 pieces of art along with his manuscripts to the Delaware Art Museum, which now has the Helen Farr Sloan Library. His estate provided trust money for promising artists. Recently, his etching, “Easter Eve, Washington Square” sold for $5,500. Some of his paintings have been auctioned at Christie's in New York City. In 1965 his second wife published part of his diary dated 1907 to 1913 which was written while he was married to his first wife who was by then an alcoholic. An United States postage stamp was issued in his honor in 1971.

Bio by: Linda Davis

Family Members



See more Sloan memorials in:


How famous was John French Sloan?

Current rating:

Not enough votes to rank yet. (5 of 10)

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: In the Dust of Stars
  • Added: 10 Jun 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 91708514
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John French Sloan (2 Aug 1871–7 Sep 1951), Find A Grave Memorial no. 91708514, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes scattered.