American realist painter John Sloan (1871–1951) is best known for his images of New York during the early 20th century, and as one of the pioneers of the Ashcan School. The Delaware Art Museum holds the largest and most extensive collection of Sloan’s art and archival materials in the world. “An American Journey: The Art of John Sloan,” on view Oct. 21–Jan. 28, will be the first comprehensive retrospective of Sloan’s work since the Delaware Art Museum’s 1988 show “John Sloan: Spectator of Life.”
“An American Journey,” organized by Heather Campbell Coyle, the Delaware Art Museum’s chief curator and curator of American art, will present the entire arc of Sloan’s career—from newspaper illustration in Philadelphia during the 1890s through his late paintings in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The exhibition includes nearly 100 works—drawings, prints, and paintings—produced between 1890 and 1946, and includes paintings that have not been seen in decades, some not since Sloan’s death in 1951. This retrospective also draws on the museum’s rich archival materials, including illustrated letters and photographs. “The first full retrospective of John Sloan’s work in nearly 30 years, this is a show that only the Delaware Art Museum is in a position to present,” says Delaware Art Museum executive director and CEO Sam Sweet. “The broad range of works on view—drawn from the museum’s own collection—tell the story of an important time in the history of American art. The exhibition will shed new light on the artist’s longstanding legacy, the Ashcan School, and a moment in New York City life.”
The museum’s major New York paintings—“Throbbing Fountain, Night” (1908), “Wet Night on the Bowery” (1911), “Spring Rain” (1912) and “Wet Night, Washington Square” (1928) —will be featured in the retrospective, as will his masterful New York City life etchings. “An American Journey: The Art of John Sloan” includes illustrations from throughout Sloan’s career, ranging from the Art Nouveau elegance of his work in the 1890s through his charming and challenging visual puzzles and his biting political cartoons. “These will be seen with major paintings and etchings to highlight how the artist worked out ideas across media and over the years,” Coyle says.
Thanks to the generosity of the artist’s wife, Helen Farr Sloan (1911–2005), the Delaware Art Museum is home to the largest collection of art by Sloan, as well as the John Sloan Manuscript Collection, a treasure trove of photographs, letters, diaries, clippings and tear sheets. These rich holdings, documenting Sloan’s life and work, provide the unique focus of this exhibition.