What Do You Think About the Ashcan School?

17 Dec 2013

Far From the Fresh Air Farm by William Glackens, 1911, gouache and crayon on paper, 24 1/2 x 16 1/2. Collection the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Far From the Fresh Air Farm
by William Glackens, 1911, gouache and crayon
on paper, 24 1/2 x 16 1/2. Collection
the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
During this time of the year, as acts of generosity and appreciation abound, I’m drawn to the works of the painters and draftsmen of the Ashcan School, which thrived during the early 20th century. This group of artists—among them Robert Henri, Everett Shinn, John French Sloan, and William Glackens—were united by a commitment to drawing and painting the people and places of their daily lives. Sometimes this meant focusing on the underbelly of society, but many of the works were really just about depicting reality. Their artwork shone a light on the plight of the people who were part of the community in which these artists lived.

Cross Streets of New York by Everett Shinn, 1899, charcoal, watercolor, pastel, chalk on paper. Collection Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Cross Streets of New York by Everett Shinn,
1899, charcoal, watercolor, pastel, chalk on
paper. Collection Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Everett Shinn’s charcoal and pastel paintings of wintry city streets, where people are bundled up against the cold and make their way along snowy, slushy roads, make me acutely thankful for the coat I wear, the warm boots on my feet, and the heated home I live in. John French Sloan’s Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair always makes me smile, thinking of how the camaraderie that the artist depicts can really make all the difference in one’s life—if you have friends and family around who support you, life’s stressors and crises can be put into perspective.

Art can present an ideal or offer an escape, but Ashcan artists went a step further by creating works that evoke care and understanding among viewers of all backgrounds. I think this type of mindfulness is the best way to experience the holiday season. As you continue to improve and challenge yourself as an artist, don’t shy away from the people, places, and events you encounter that aren’t cookie-cutter perfect. Great artists’ who sincerely look and truly respond to their surroundings inspire equally sincere, eyes-wide-open appreciation from viewers who look at their work.

Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair by John French Sloan, 1912, oil on canvas, 26 1/8 x 32 1/8. Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair
by John French Sloan, 1912, oil on canvas,
26 1/8 x 32 1/8.
Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Your drawings, pastels, and paintings can have the power to move people, and can raise awareness and lead you in incredible new directions. One of the best things you can do to celebrate the seasons is turn your eye to the things you see around you, and let the Essentials of Pastel Landscapes Deluxe Pack provide the skills you need to understand and execute the fundamentals of the artistic process, so when you see your inspiration you can capture it! This resource pack is also filled with great instruction and inspirations on how best to explore the ideas that you are inspired by. It is a great gift to share with an artist you know who might be trying to find his or her own creative voice, or it could be the perfect gift for yourself. Enjoy!

P.S. On behalf of it being Friday, I wanted to offer our Learn How to Draw People eBook to everyone. Download your copy and pass it along to any artist friends who might enjoy it!


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Comments

on 26 Dec 2010 2:58 PM

I hope that I am not the first to thank you, Courtney, for everything you have done for the art community.  Happy New Year    xoxoxoxo

Carol Spell wrote
on 18 Dec 2013 9:19 AM

People are used to hearing, "They didn't have TV when i was a kid", but when I tell them we didn't have hair dryers they look at me like, "You gotta be kidding!"

We dried our hair outside in the sun or if it was rainy or overcast we turned on the oven and opened the oven door.

on 18 Dec 2013 2:01 PM

Courtney—

Another excellent article. I have always felt a strong relationship with the Ashcan School.

PS