Night Windows
John Sloan
Night Windows

Gallery L
American Watercolors, Drawings, etc.

John Sloan's work was perhaps the most politically charged of all the Ashcan painters, though his decision to paint subjects from the Lower-East Side was as much an attempt to break free of his own class boundaries as to depict social injustice: "I have been thinking how necessary it is for an artist of any creative story to go among common people—not to waste his time among his fellows, for it must be from the other class—not creators, nor Bohemians not dilettantes—that he will get his knowledge of life." Sloan's Night Windows (above) captures the communal inevitablity that characterized metropolitan life, emphasizing the overt sensuality and availability of women's bodies, while implicating the viewer and the man perched on the rooftop as voyeurs. Girl and Beggar depicts two uncelebrated "types" of the city, prostitute and beggar, both with legs offered nonchalantly, their only means of economic survival. Sloan's depiction of prostitution as an economic rather than moral phenomenon contrasts with Abastenia St. Eberle's White Slave, which emphasized the domination and depravity of sex traffickers. Sloan also showed The Picture Buyer, a self-conscious glance at the artist's dependence on dealers like William Macbeth to promote and sell his work. According to Robert Fitzgerald, Sloan was "repulsed by his own 'grind and struggle for existence' in the art market" (126).

Sloan, one of the founding members of The Masses along with Art Young, Glenn O. Coleman, and Maurice Becker, recruited other artists such as George Luks, George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Boardman Robinson, and Henry Glintenkamp to contribute to the socialist magazine. All of these artists also participated in the Armory Show. Davis' work at the Armory, like Sloan's, offered unconventional portrayals of working-class women and sexuality. Luks and Becker, though capable of strong social commentary, were represented by animal studies in the exhibition.


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