Art of the Week

John Sloan (1871-1951)
Turning Out the Light, 1905
Etching, 16 x 20 cm.
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

A leader of The Eight, John Sloan was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Sloan grew up in Philadelphia, where he studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in 1892 joined the art staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That year he met Robert Henri, who would become his life-long friend and inspire him to become a painter. Among his fellow newspaper artists in Philadelphia were William Glackens, George Luks, and Everett Shinn. In 1904 Sloan and Dolly, his wife of three years, moved to New York, where he continued to work as an illustrator and became increasingly interested in depicting city life and city scenes. In 1910 Sloan joined the Socialist Party and contributed illustrations to its publications, notably the magazine The Masses. With the advent of World War I he resigned from the party. It was probably due to Sloan’s paintings, which favored a dark palette and scenes of the gritty side of urban life in turn-of-the-century New York City, that the Eight was later dubbed the “Ashcan School.” Sloan’s subjects are voyeuristic, a spectator of the human dramas he glimpsed in the streets and tenements of New York. Duncan Phillips further noted in A Collection in the Making, that Sloan was a “…sympathetic and understanding observer of class consciousness, crowd psychology and the bitter ironies of life.” One of America’s most revered artists in his later years, Sloan continued to paint, etch, and experiment with new printing techniques, until his death in 1951.

This etching comes from the series of 10 prints entitled New York City Life, recording the lives of the ordinary inhabitants in less affluent areas of Manhattan. The prints had a mixed reception at the time and a number were rejected from an exhibition of the American Watercolor Society as ‘vulgar’ and ‘indecent’. The mood of Turning out the Light is one of anticipation and intimacy: the woman glances down at the man lying stretched out on their unmade bed, while her discarded stockings are draped over the bed frame. The intimacy is heightened by the strong contrast between the densely-worked areas of cross-hatching in the deeper shadows and the unetched blank areas of the light.

Scott, David W., John Sloan. New York : Watson-Guptill, 1975.
“Exhibition of ‘The Eight’: its history and significance.” By: Homer, William Innes. American Art Journal, Spring 1969, Vol. 1 Issue 1, p53-64, 12p
“John Sloan memorial; his complete graphic work.” Bulletin: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1956, Vol. 51 Issue 248, p17-31, 15p
“Re-viewing John Sloan’s images of women” By: Coco, Janice M. Oxford Art Journal, 1998, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p79-97, 19p
“Women as urban spectators in John Sloan’s early work.” By: Weintraub, Laural. American Art, Summer2001, Vol. 15 Issue 2, p72-83, 12p

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