SLOAN IS RESTRAINED YET INSIGHTFUL
by James Foritano
Perusing the photographs of roisterous croquet tournaments and ebullient lobster bakes on the beach in the catalog for the Cape Ann Museum’s exhibit of paintings from John Sloan’s five summers spent with colleagues from the hot streets and brash sidewalks of New York City, one gathers that it was a delightful interlude.
And yet, could one of the founders of that early 20th century New York school of painting — dubbed by outraged critics “Ashcan” one who delighted to picture Greenwich Village housewives drying their long hair (in their slips!) on rooftops ever find himself in an idyll without a nugget of provocation? Not likely. And yet, there was, as there pointedly wasn’t in Italy, France and Germany, some restraint in the painting community, some respect for an as yet undistorted figurative tradition.
And yet reality itself, over there at least, was distorting and disorienting. The Italian Futurists who galloped off to the front lines in a blur of Futurist action returned, too many, in silent caskets. The French “Fauves” and Germans who crossed “Die Brücke” into a radical world of form and color returned from a world of war fractured in mind and body.
Here, in the United States, there was the 1913 Armory show in New York City, which both repelled and enthralled the polite gallery-going public, but it was, vis-à-vis, Europe, a studied chaos if the exploding chromaticism of the Van Goghs repelled one, one could focus on the aptly chosen, craftily fashioned frames.