Seeing the city at Sloan’s


Reynolda House Museum of American Art presents “Seeing the City:

Sloan’s New York,” a traveling exhibition focusing on John Sloan’s images of New York City in paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs to present an in-depth view of the artist’s years in the city and the effects of the city on his art. “Seeing the City” will be on view from October 4, 2008 through January 4, 2009.

Reynolda House is the final venue of a four-city tour and the only venue for the exhibition in the South.

This exhibition was organized by the Delaware Art Museum, which received generous support from the Henry R. Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Helen Farr Sloan Trust.

Reynolda House Museum of American Art received major support for this exhibition from the Charles Babcock Arts and Community Initiative Endowment.

While displaying Sloan’s images of early 20th century New York City and the social and cultural scenes and events he painted, Reynolda House is taking the opportunity to develop new and unique programming tied to the social and cultural scenes of its own city. The museum will host a series of events called “Seeing Our City” that will examine the downtown aesthetics of Winston-Salem, self-described City of the Arts, and the issues facing the city. Reynolda House will also collaborate with a downtown Winston-Salem art gallery in an exhibition that will feature North Carolina artists depicting the pedestrian experience in the twin city.

Far from glamorizing the emerging vertical vistas of sky-scrapers, John Sloan focused instead on people, public spaces, street life, elevated trains, and the pedestrian experience. The exhibition draws on the abundance of the Delaware Art Museum’s own art and archival collections supplemented by loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, the Phillips Collection, and various other public and private collections.

By bringing together numerous images in all media from 1904 through the 1930s, “Seeing the City” is the first major traveling exhibition to focus on Sloan’s depictions of New York and the first since the 1970s to present significant new scholarship on the artist. This exhibition is also the first to isolate Sloan’s vision from that of his “Ashcan School” colleagues in order to explore his individual contribution. As Sloan moved through the vast and rapidly changing metropolis, he made sense of it by describingin his diaries, letters, and picturesthe streets, squares, gathering places, and city dwellers he encountered. He created a “pedestrian aesthetic,” helping to define New York City in the popular imagination and creating what one critic called the “slang” of the city.

“Seeing the City” maps Sloan’s New York, locating and explicating the subjects he pictured. The exhibition follows Sloan as he explores parks, streets, and rooftops, examining the personal and cultural meanings of the sites he chose to depict again and again. Through wall text, label copy, an interactive kiosk, and a catalog, “Seeing the City: Sloan’s New York” looks at Sloan’s work from new perspectives and encourages the visitor to experience New York with the artist.

About John Sloan

From 1892 until 1904, John Sloan (18711951) worked as an artist at Philadelphia newspapers and contributed illustrations to magazines. In 1904, Sloan moved to New York City, determined to pursue a career as a painter. He joined a group of artists who were challenging the standards of the National Academy, among them Philadelphia artists Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks, and Everett Shinn, as well as Arthur B. Davies, Maurice Prendergast, and Ernest Lawson.

After the 1908 exhibition of their work, this group became known as The Eight, or as their critics called them, the Ashcan school, so named for their depiction of the less savory areas of the city.

Sloan’s paintings of New York centered on his favorite subject: the “drab, shabby, happy, sad, and human life” of a city and its people.

While Sloan remains best known for the New York scenes he painted during his first 10 years there, he was also an able landscapist and portraitist, as well as a prolific printmaker.

Sloan taught at various schools until 1916, when he joined the Art Students League in New York, teaching there until 1937. His students included sculptor David Smith, Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock, and his second wife, Helen Farr Sloan. It was she who managed his estate and turned it into a philanthropic instrument after his death, in order to serve local, regional, national, and international arts constituencies. She first visited Wilmington, Delaware in 1960 to help organize “The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Exhibition of Independent Artists in 1910;” the original show had been organized by her husband.

Over the course of more than four decades, Mrs. Sloan donated thousands of paintings, prints, and drawings as well as manuscript materials to the Delaware Art Museum.

Exhibition Events

Friday, October 3, 79 p.m.

Exhibition Opening “Seeing the City: Sloan’s New York” opens with a party for the general public featuring music, cash bar, and admission to the main floor of the historic house. At 7 p.m., exhibition curators Joyce Schiller and Heather Coyle from the Delaware Art Museum share the story behind the exhibition. At 8 p.m. Seth Trachy, jazz performer and North Carolina School of the Arts graduate performs favorite jazz standards of the 1920s and 1930s with his quartet.

Sunday, October 19, 24 p.m.

Sunday in the Park Community Day Festival – Reynolda House invites you to a fall festival celebrating “Seeing the City: Sloan’s New York.”

Tour the Museum and enjoy art activities and music on the park-like grounds of the Reynolda Estate. The Reynolda lawn will be transformed for one afternoon into New York City’s public pleasure grounds circa 1904, such as Madison Square Park and Central Park. Entertainment will include calliope music and a barbershop quartet, a one-cent movie show, strolling performers, festive balloons, sketching artists, and refreshments.

Seeing Our City Public Forums

John Sloan’s paintings present a unique opportunity to promote discussion about what makes a city interesting and beautiful. Is it the variety of people that make up its residents? Is it the architecture? Is it the natural parks and places where people can relax by the water, or artists and their creativity that add an indefinable spark to a city?

Reynolda House is hosting a series of free public forums, with talks by leading experts and local leaders, on three successive Thursday evenings in October.

October 9, 79 p.m. – The Face of Our City: Architectural Characteristics, Unique Assets, and Conscientious Development

October 16, 79 p.m. – The Heart of Our City: Downtown Living, Diversity, and a District for the Arts

October 23, 79 p.m. Transforming Our City: Bridging Public Art and Public Works

Reynolda House is hosting a series of Tuesday evening Gallery Talks and Portals of Discovery continuing education courses designed to add greater depth to one’s understanding of the artist and the times in which he lived. For these and other programs, please visit

About Reynolda House

Reynolda House Museum of American Art is one of the nation’s premier American art museums, with masterpieces by Mary Cassatt, Frederic Church, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe and Gilbert Stuart among its permanent collection. Affiliated with Wake Forest University, Reynolda House features traveling and original exhibitions, concerts, lectures, classes, film screenings, and other events. The museum is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the historic 1917 estate of Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband, Richard Joshua Reynolds, founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Reynolda House and adjacent Reynolda Ga
rdens and Reynolda Village feature a spectacular public garden, dining, shopping and walking trails. For more information, please visit or call 336.758.5150.