After attending Central High School in Philadelphia, John Sloan taught himself etching and by 1891 was making his living as a commercial illustrator. While a full-time staff artist for the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1892, Sloan began taking drawing classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine...
After attending Central High School in Philadelphia, John Sloan taught himself etching and by 1891 was making his living as a commercial illustrator. While a full-time staff artist for the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1892, Sloan began taking drawing classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he met Robert Henri [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Robert%20Earle%20Henri], who encouraged him (as well as William James Glackens [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=William%20James%20Glackens], Everett Shinn [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Everett%20Shinn], and George Luks [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=George%20Benjamin%20Luks]) to take up painting. Sloan stubbornly refused to travel to Europe with the others, and remained in Philadelphia until in 1903 he joined his colleagues in New York City. From the vantage point of his studio on West 23rd Street, Sloan worked in a range of media to depict the scenes of daily life he witnessed on the rooftops. Etchings like Roofs, Summer Night (1906) and Love on the Roof (1914) and paintings such as Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair (1912, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts) convey a sense of the freedom and escape the roofs provided from the suffocating confines of New York tenement living. Here Sloan depicts the then popular pastime of raising pigeons, which were let loose daily to fly for exercise. Witnessed by their trainer and a young boy perched on the tenement wall, the birds circling above seem to give visual expression to the men’s dreams of a flight of fancy high above the city. Sloan described his desire to capture the golden light of evening that illuminates the skyline so brilliantly, an interest reminiscent of the French Impressionists’ concern with effects of light at different times of day. He noted that the fleeting quality of light before sunset was present for only twenty minutes and recalled interrupting his work each day to achieve the warm orange “pre-sunset glow.”  The dwindling daylight suggests the passage of time; in similar fashion, New York’s skyline delineates the transformation of the urban scene at the dawn of the new century. At the right a church steeple is clearly visible, and illuminated behind the pigeon trainer, the construction of Pennsylvania Station appears. The new building was symbolically replacing the old—a modern temple of progress in the rapidly expanding city. Notes 1. John Sloan, diary entry, February 7, 1910, quoted in Bruce St. John, ed., John Sloan’s New York Scene from the Diaries, Notes and Correspondence 1906–1913 (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 384. This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).
Lower right: John Sloan/1910; Reverse: Pigeons/John Sloan
1910, the artist; 1935, sold by the artist to the MFA for $2,000. (Accession Date: February 7, 1935)
The Hayden Collection—Charles Henry Hayden Fund
Reproduced with permission.