16. John French Sloan (1871–1951). “The Black Pot,” 1937.
Etching. 6 x 4." Signed, l.r. Titled, l.c. Inscr.: “JS imp (old paper),” l.c. [John Sloan] Old label, verso: Edition 100 / printing 75. Sheet: 12 1/2 x 8 1/4." Light toning. Excellent.
“Of the many painters who have been attracted to New Mexico to paint . . . no one is more prominent or more important in the world of art than is John Sloan, President of the Art Students League of New York, the Society of Independent Artists and now also president of the recently organized Exposition of Indian Art.” — Ina Sizer Cassidy
John Sloan is most popularly remembered as the leader of the “Ashcan School”—a term disliked by Sloan that was applied to those artists of the early twentieth century in New York City who adopted a socialist view of the realities of daily life at the time, and took an anti-academic approach to representation. Their lack of formal idealism is also referred to as “social realism.” Sloan’s approach has been described as “emotional,” as he reveals the mental states of his subjects in an expressive manner.
“The Black Pot” depicts a rather obvious and proud tourist scrutinizing the ware of an Indian potter who also bears a babe in arms, and is accompanied by a toddler at her knee and an elder whom she presumably also supports with her craft. The family’s gazes all direct our attention back to the tourist, who’s only interest apparently is the object of her desire. It is a subtle representation, without the overt satire generally associated with the art of social commentary.
Sloan began his interest in printmaking at he age of sixteen when he went to work as an assistant cashier at Porter and Coates, a seller of fine prints in Philadelphia, where he copied the work of Dürer and Rembrandt. He went on to study at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts with Thomas Anschutz and with Robert Henri. It was Henri who would later convince Sloan to visit New Mexico.
In 1904, Sloan moved to New York City where he painted some of his most important works, focusing on street scenes as his subject matter and exhibiting with The Eight as well as The Society of Independent Artists. However, his independent art was not commercially viable, so he worked as an illustrator for Harper’s, Collier’s, Scribner’s, Good Housekeeping, and The Saturday Evening Post. In 1913, Sloan helped organize the Armory Show where he also exhibited, and was influenced by the Fauves and emerging modernists. Beginning in 1914, Sloan taught at the Art Students League where his students included Alexander Calder, Reginald Marsh, and Barnett Newman.
In the summer of 1919, the Sloans traveled to New Mexico with Randall Davey and his wife, and thereafter spent nearly every summer in Santa Fe. Sloan had a small studio on Garcia Street, just off Canyon Road, and was an active and influential member of the Santa Fe Art Colony and of the larger community.
Sloan’s artworks are held in a number of important collections, including the Anschutz Collection, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museums, the Cocoran Gallery of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Thomas Gilcrease Institute, the High Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum; the Joslyn Museum; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Museum of the Southwest; the National Gallery of Art, The New Mexico Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, the Smithsonian Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Refs.: Grant Holcomb, “John Sloan and McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon,” American Art Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2; Stacia Lewandowski, Light, Landscape and the Creative Quest: Early Artists of Santa Fe.