Book: John Sloan: Painter and Rebel

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John Sloan: Painter and Rebel

Author: John Loughery
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co

As a member of “The Eight,” a group of artists who challenged the anachronistic dictates of the Academy, John Sloan was a passionate chronicler of the untidy realities of urban American life, who believed that “character is everything in art” and that “a national character can only be acquired by remaining at home and saturating ourselves in the spirit of the land until it oozes from our pores and pencils.” And in this vivid account we learn that there was another reason for the young artist to stay home: to help create the political and intellectual ferment that would define bohemian life in New York during the period of labor unrest before World War I and, a decade later, when the values of Whitman and Emerson (and Sloan’s own circle) would be challenged by those of George Babbitt and Jay Gatsby.

Close to the artist in these pages is his tempestuous wife, Dolly, friend of Emma Goldman and perennial backer of left-wing causes. Inside the circle we meet John Butler Yeats, a man “with the courage to listen to his heart”; Max Eastman and Floyd Dell of The Masses, whose landmark Socialist magazine the Sloans helped to found (John Sloan’s rude, raw drawings were as blistering as the prose of Eastman or Jack Reed); John Quinn, the lawyer and collector; Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and supporters such as Juliana Force in New York and Mabel Dodge in Santa Fe (one of Sloan’s adopted homes); and artists as disparate as Marcel Duchamp, Marsden Hartley, and Edward Hopper.

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