Everett Shinn (1876–1953), Magician with Shears

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 by

Magician with ShearsEverett Shinn (1876–1953)
Magician with Shears, c. 1907
Oil on canvas, 12 x 9 7⁄8 inches
Gift of the Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom

Shinn attended Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he met several of the artists who, like him, would later be members of The Eight, including Robert Henri (1865–1929). Shinn traveled to Paris in 1901, and came under the influence by French artists such as Édouard Manet (1832–1883), Edgar Degas (1834–1917), and Jean-Louis Forain (1852–1931), which encouraged his interest in the depiction of theatrical subjects. Degas was a particular inspiration, and Shinn once called him “the greatest painter France ever turned out.” Although Shinn certainly did works of urban realism, he became more and more involved with creating works that took their subjects from the world of entertainment, including vaudeville, the theatre, and other shows such as magic performances, as in this painting. In the exhibition of The Eight in 1908 at MacBeth Gallery, all of his works were theatrical in subject. In this image, raking theatrical lighting from stage left lights up the magician’s face, the elegant white tie and starched shirt he wears, and the piece of cloth and long, dramatic shears he displays as part of a magic trick. A charcoal drawing of a magician dated 1907 was recently sold (at Christie’s New York, East, in 1998) and it appears to perhaps depict the same man, and a pastel in the Saint Louis Art Museum from 1906 may be the same person, from behind. Later, in 1940, Shinn painted another image of a magician, a work that was sold recently (Sotheby’s, New York, 2003). Shinn also worked extensively as an artistic designer for film and theatre and as a playwright, and he founded the informal Waverly Street Theatre, which gave plays in Shinn’s studio and included as actors the artist’s wife, artist Florence Scovel Shinn (1871– 1940), fellow member of The Eight William Glackens (1870–1938) and his wife Edith, and others. Author Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945) based the character of Eugene Witla from his 1915 novel The Genius partly on Shinn.

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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