Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York

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New York at the turn of the century was a city in transition. At the junction of steamship lines from Europe and railroads from the interior, it was the hub of shipping, manufacturing, and corporate activity, as well as the leading port of entry for immigrants. This was the New York of the Ashcan artists. Fascinated with the contrasts and nuances of urban change, George Bellows, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan sought out the human drama of New York's streets - from life ...
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Overview

New York at the turn of the century was a city in transition. At the junction of steamship lines from Europe and railroads from the interior, it was the hub of shipping, manufacturing, and corporate activity, as well as the leading port of entry for immigrants. This was the New York of the Ashcan artists. Fascinated with the contrasts and nuances of urban change, George Bellows, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan sought out the human drama of New York's streets - from life in immigrant neighborhoods, backlot football games, boxing matches, and bars to city parks where bums shared space with fashionably dressed young women. If their work contrasted with the genteel subjects typical of art in the 1890s, their subjects were familiar territory to those who turned to contemporary newspaper articles, illustrated magazines, even the vaudeville stage, interpretations of contemporary life. Like journalists, the Ashcan artists captured the breaking trends of their day. This book presents more than 100 paintings, drawings, and prints by the six artists whose earthy, urban subjects led critics to call them the "Ashcan School," along with reproductions of contemporary postcards, sheet music, advertisements, newspaper clippings, and magazine illustrations that show how clearly the artists reflected the current events of their times. The authors discuss the relationship between the artworks and changing social concerns and explain meanings that contemporary viewers understood but that are lost to us today. Robert Snyder examines the complex geographic and social transformations that made New York the symbol of early twentieth-century America. Rebecca Zurier describes the lives of the six artists, tracing the way each forged a distinctive vision that related art to "real life." Together Zurier and Snyder link the work of the Ashcan artists to pressing social concerns of the time - from the changes in urban geography that transformed the
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Editorial Reviews

Donna Seaman
Between 1897 and 1917, six painters, none native to the city they so provocatively and energetically portrayed, challenged the standards for suitable artistic subject matter when they took to the streets of New York and seized on images full of motion and life. Their "prophet" was Walt Whitman, and their achievements create a vibrant record of urban growth and artistic evolution. George Bellows, William Glackens, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan were friends and collaborators, each developing their own distinct style, each capturing different slices of New York life. There are scenes of poverty and wealth, work and play, sensuality and despair. Zurier and her coauthors, Robert Snyder and Virginia Mecklenburg, bring expertise in art, social, and cultural history to this lively volume. They profile each artist and analyze his works, establishing a visual context with photographs and graphic arts of the time. Most of the paintings, which are beautifully reproduced, are rarely seen in books, and some, especially Shinn's exceptional pastels and watercolors, are a revelation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780937311271
  • Publisher: Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Publication date: 1/1/1995
  • Pages: 232

Table of Contents

Foreword 7
Acknowledgments 9
Introduction 13
City in Transition 29
The Making of Six New York Artists 59
Picturing the City 85
Manufacturing Rebellion: The Ashcan Artists and the Press 191
Notes 214
Exhibition Checklist 223
Index 227
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