John Sloan (1871–1951), Study of a Young Woman

Posted on July 22nd, 2014 by

Study of a Young WomanJohn Sloan (1871–1951)
Study of a Young Woman, Seated, undated
Saguine on paper, 11 x 10 3⁄8 inches
Gift of the Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom

Sloan studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He worked as a commercial artist for newspapers in Philadelphia and also did magazine illustrations, earning his living this way until 1916. While still in Philadelphia, he met painter Robert Henri (1865–1929), following him to New York City in 1904, where Sloan made his career. Although also a painter, the artist identified closely with drawing (and he considered etching, one of the media in which he was particularly prolific, to be a form of drawing). This undated sketch of a woman seated with her right arm and hand resting on a surface in front of her is highly sensitive. It has been suggested that the image may have been made as a study for an illustration in a magazine, but there is little that is strictly reportorial about it, and a wonderful thoughtfulness is captured in the woman’s expression and her relaxed body language. It recalls Sloan’s quote, in his art treatise The Gist of Art (first published in 1939), from portrait artist John Butler Yeats (1839 1922; Yeats was father of poet William Butler Yeats), who said, “a perfect portrait is an embodied dream of the sitter.” Sloan wrote elsewhere in his book a kind of credo about the purpose of art: “I believe the work of artists, poets, musicians, is a kind of food for starving souls, as necessary as food for the body.” His comment resonates with the poetic effect of this drawing. On its reverse is a somewhat less-developed study, another image of a seated woman, perhaps the same person, with a cup in front of her.

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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