John Sloan's fame rests primarily on his robust images of New York City life during the first decades of the twentieth century. Sloan and his wife, Dolly, had moved to New York from Philadelphia in 1904. From 1915 to 1927 their apartment and his studio were on the top floor of 88 Washington...
John Sloan's fame rests primarily on his robust images of New York City life during the first decades of the twentieth century. Sloan and his wife, Dolly, had moved to New York from Philadelphia in 1904. From 1915 to 1927 their apartment and his studio were on the top floor of 88 Washington Place in Greenwich Village. This studio (and a previous studio on an upper floor) gave Sloan a view of street life from an elevated vantage point, which he frequently incorporated into his paintings. Some of these pictures showed a bird's eye view, well above the fray. In others, like "Flowers of Spring," Sloan places the viewer only one or two stories above the street and involves him in the scene - the flower salesman seems to be calling out directly to the spectator. In his book "Gist of Art," a compilation of his teachings, Sloan commented on the paintings that documented his own experiences in the neighborhoods of the city. Of "Flowers of Spring," he wrote, "This picture has, in a very direct, simple way, handed on the thrill that comes to everyone on a wet spring morning from the first sight of the flower huckster's wagon. The brilliant notes of the plants surrounded on all sides by wet, city grays. Dolly [is] at the left," (quoted in Rowland Elzea, "John Sloan's Oil Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné," part two, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991, p. 270). Sloan enjoyed painting the city under rainy conditions, finding beauty in the reflections on the wet streets. In "Flowers of Spring," Sloan indicated the watery conditions by applying liquid strokes of gray paint, blurring the edges of shadows, and including an umbrella for Dolly. The vibrantly-colored blooms stand out vividly against the soggy, dreary background and bring with them the promise of spring's warmth. When "Gist of Art" was published in 1939, "Flowers of Spring" was still unsold, but shortly thereafter it was acquired by Amelia Elizabeth White (1878-1972), a major patron and friend of the artist. White, the daughter of Horace White, a wealthy railroad investor and owner and editor-in-chief of the "Chicago Tribune" and the "New York Evening Post," was raised in a world of privilege on the East Coast. After attending Bryn Mawr College and serving as a nurse during World War I, she and her sister Martha made their primary residence in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There she became an advocate for Pueblo Indian rights and a passionate collector of Native American art. She also joined a circle of artists, writers, and other intellectuals. Sloan, who began summering in Santa Fe in 1919, was also a member of this circle, and he and White became friends. They worked together to gain recognition for Native American art and in 1930 organized an Exposition of Indian Tribal arts which was shown at the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York and then traveled throughout the country. White owned more than twenty paintings by Sloan, including nudes and New York, Gloucester, and Santa Fe scenes. Sloan dedicated "Gist of Art" to White and also painted her portrait (Whitney Museum of American Art). White donated several of Sloan's paintings to leading American museums and gave "Flowers of Spring" to the MFA in 1967. Janet Comey
Lower left: —John Sloan—; Reverse: Flowers of Spring
The artist; Miss Amelia E. White; to MFA, 1967, gift of Miss Amelia E. White.
Gift of Miss Amelia E. White
Reproduced with permission.