William Glackens (1870–1938), Bandstand, Washington Square Park Posted on July 21st, 2014 by

Bandstand, Washington Square ParkWilliam Glackens (1870–1938)
Bandstand, Washington Square Park, c. 1911–12
Crayon on paper, 16 x 20 inches
Hillstrom Museum of Art purchase with endowment acquisition funds

This drawing is a depiction of Washington Square, then as now a rather bohemian park and a frequent subject for Glackens, who, like a number of artists, had a studio overlooking the park. Glackens did many works based on his observation of the Square, among them over twenty paintings, including a 1910 winter scene in the New Britain Museum of American Art, and a brighter image, still from winter time, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also from 1910. This drawing is one of numerous graphic works the artist did on Washington Square Park. It’s thought to date around this same time, c. 1911 to 1912, and is also a wintery (or at least autumnal) scene. Like he frequently did, Glackens anchored his composition around a central tree, and he shows a gloomy day with people walking through the park or sitting—bundled up—on the park benches. He delineates the middle ground from the foreground with the spindly fence that appears in many of his Washington Square images, and in the background he depicts the bandstand that no longer exists but that was still in use into the 1930s. The style is detailed but suggestive, showing a rapidity that relates both to his Impressionist tendencies and also to his early experience in Philadelphia as a newspaper illustrator, where speed and accuracy were crucial. This drawing was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in 1972, in an exhibition of Drawings by William Glackens, which also included two other large drawings of the same era based on Washington Square. The catalogue for that exhibit includes a text by the artist’s son Ira Glackens, who noted that his father would do drawings over and over until he was satisfied, tearing up or throwing away the ones he didn’t like. This drawing is one that was still in the artist’s estate after he died, so it must have satisfied him. Drawing was very important to the artist, and his son also recounted how Glackens never went out without a sketchbook, and tells that Glackens considered his sketches to be his most prized possession, even more valued by him than his paintings since they were records of his observations. According to his son, Glackens actually mourned when one of his sets of drawings was lost.

Text from the catalogue for the exhibition The Eight, The Ashcan School, and The American Scene in the Hillstrom Collection, presented in the Hillstrom Museum of Art February 25 through April 21, 2013.


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