Exhibition explores full career of revolutionary Ashcan School artist 


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 October 21, 2017 – January 28, 2018, 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: The Art of John Sloan, organized by Dr. 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 1951 death. This retrospective will also draw 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,” explains Delaware Art Museum’s 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.”

An American Journey explores all facets of the artist’s long and prolific career: his student work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; illustrations for Philadelphia newspapers and national magazines; depictions of New York City life; paintings of Gloucester, MA; his nudes and portraits; and studies of Santa Fe.

“The Delaware Art Museum has the most expansive collection of paintings, drawings, etchings, and illustrations made by Sloan, as well as his personal papers. This retrospective will draw on these materials to present an unprecedented look at Sloan’s long career. In particular, this project showcases the artist’s early years in Philadelphia, his figure paintings, and his work as an illustrator,” says Dr. Coyle.

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 years,” explains Coyle.

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.

The Delaware Art Museum’s Sloan collection is situated within a strong survey of American art and illustration, with particular strength in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Museum’s American art and illustration collection stretches from 1757 to the present day and includes major works by Raphaelle Peale, George Inness, Howard Pyle, Edward Hopper, William Zorach, Norman Lewis, Andrew Wyeth, Robert Colescott, and Deborah Butterfield. Selections from the Museum’s archive on John Sloan can be found online here.

An American Journey: The Art of John Sloan will be accompanied by a full range of public programs, including tours, lectures, family and school programs, as well as a symposium November 2–3, 2017 for specialists and enthusiasts to explore Sloan’s work in depth.

To view large images and caption information, click below.

About John Sloan (1871–1951)

American realist painter John Sloan is best known for his images of the “drab, shabby, happy, sad, and human life” of New York during the early 20th century, but his career was long and his output wide-ranging. Sloan grew up in Philadelphia, where he worked as a newspaper illustrator and attended classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Through the Academy and the pressrooms of Philadelphia, Sloan befriended the men who would become his closest associates during his early career: Robert Henri, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, and George Luks. One by one, Sloan’s Philadelphia friends moved to New York, and he joined them in 1904.

Sloan became known as an illustrator, etcher, and painter of the streets, shops, and parks of working-class New York. His subject matter won him little praise from critics steeped in the genteel tradition of American academic and impressionist painting, and he and other artists committed to urban realism would eventually be referenced derogatorily as “the Ashcan School” for their images of city life. Frequently finding their work unpopular with exhibition juries, Sloan and his friends began to organize independent exhibitions of modern art, including the infamous exhibition of “The Eight” at Macbeth Galleries in 1908. Like many modern artists, Sloan and his friends supported themselves as illustrators and instructors, with Sloan teaching primarily at the Art Students League of New York.

Not all of Sloan’s time was spent in New York. Between 1914 and 1918, Sloan enjoyed his summers in the thriving artists’ retreat of Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he painted dozens of brightly colored canvasses. In 1919, Sloan spent his first summer in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fascinated with the local culture, he eventually bought a house in Santa Fe and spent part of each year there. He became a champion of Native American art, befriending Pueblo artists and organizing ground-breaking exhibitions of their work in the 1920s and 1930s.

Late in life, Sloan found himself a respected voice in American art. He was interviewed regularly, and, with the assistance of his former student Helen Farr, his teachings were published in 1939 as Gist of Art. At the time of his death in 1951, Sloan was considered a “dean of American painting.”


The exhibition is supported by a catalogue with essays by Delaware Art Museum’s Chief Curator and Curator of American Art Dr. Heather Campbell Coyle and painting conservator Mark Bockrath. The publication also features individual object entries contributed by Dr. Coyle and other scholars currently working on Sloan, including John Fagg (Lecturer, Director of American and Canadian Studies Center, University of Birmingham); Margarita Karasoulas (Ph.D. candidate, University of Delaware); and Jennifer Parsons (assistant curator, Florence Griswold Museum). The catalogue will be available in the Delaware Art Museum’s Store and online at this fall.


An American Journey: The Art of John Sloan was organized by the Delaware Art Museum. This exhibition was made possible by the Johannes R. and Betty P. Krahmer American Art Exhibition Fund and Glenmede Trust. Conservation treatment for the artwork in this exhibition was made possible by the Richard C von Hess Foundation. Additional support was provided, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on

About the Delaware Art Museum

Founded in 1912, the Delaware Art Museum is recognized for its cornerstone collection of works by celebrated American artist and illustrator Howard Pyle, a Wilmington native, complemented by hundreds of works by some of the most talented illustrators.

Also renowned for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most significant Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom, assembled by Samuel Bancroft, Jr., a Wilmington textile mill owner with a taste for Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other contemporaries of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

The Museum is famous for the preeminent collection of urban landscapes by American painter John Sloan and his circle. The Sloan collection lives alongside an esteemed survey of American art—spanning more than 200 years—from early 19th century through the present, including masterworks by Raphaelle Peale, Frederic Church, Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper, Robert Motherwell, and Dale Chihuly. Visitors also enjoy the outdoor Copeland Sculpture Garden, featuring large-scale works by Tom Otterness and George Rickey.

For more than 100 years, the Museum has occupied a vibrant place in the life of the Brandywine Valley. More than a collection of beautiful objects, the Museum is a vital source of experiences and discoveries for visitors from around the world.

The Delaware Art Museum is at 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE 19806. Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., and Friday – Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday and Tuesday: Closed. Adults (19–59) $12, Seniors (60+) $10, Students (with valid ID) $6, Youth (7–18) $6, and Children (6 and under) free. Admission fees are waived Thursdays 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Sundays 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. thanks to support from generous individuals. For more information, call 302-571-9590 or 866-232-3714 (toll free), or visit

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