View Full Version : Art Movements-Aug-The Ashcan School

08-01-2009, 06:40 AM
A new monthly project series: ART MOVEMENTS AND GROUPS

Our August movement: THE ASHCAN SCHOOL AND THE EIGHT or as it was called by some 'Apostles of ugliness'

I always thought of this group as painting gritty city scenes, but they also did portraits, landscapes, still lifes and seascapes. Some stuck with the gritty, others moved on.

America's first and only National Movement

by Richard Schiff447153

Robert Henri (left) and John Sloan (right) draw while

Mrs. Henri reads aloud and Dolly Sloan listens. Etching by John Sloan.

The opening years of this century were boom years for American cities. Filled with office and factory workers, shopkeepers and immigrants, cities bulged and spread. By legislation, New York City had absorbed surrounding areas to become Greater New York- three times as vast and almost twice as populous as had been, "little old New York". To speed the travel of millions, literal armies of workers dug tunnels five stories deep into the bedrock of Manhattan Island for the subway system, flung massive bridges across the encircling waters and erected splendiferous railroad terminals.


Ernest Lawson, detail ,"Old Grand Central"

The city's vigor and variety attracted a band of artists who were to revolutionize American Art. These men were "The Eight"- Arthur Davies, Robert Henri, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, John Sloan and Everett Shinn. Their group exhibition in 1908, a couple of years before the Armory Show, both shocked and educated contemporary taste. Spurning the safe road of genteel society portraiture, for which they were all trained, The Eight painted men and machines at work, women at leisure. In time their brand of personalized realism earned them the nickname, "The Ashcan School". Robert Henri, who had taught four of the eight, insisted that artists should "make pictures from life", and the city life these artists saw was not fixed in one stiff pose. It was, by turns, both rough and tender, somber and jubilant. For them the city was, as John Sloan said, "a cosmopolitan palette where the spectrum changed in every side street."

Ernest Lawson "Queensborough Bridge" 1909

"Forget about art!" Robert Henri told his classes, "and paint pictures of what interests you in life." His best students did not forget about art, but they did portray life with a new boldness and vision. For their subject matter they took to the streets. John Sloan preferred the seamy side of town over the elegant fifth avenue style, He enjoyed the "drab, shabby, happy, sad and human" life he found there.

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The group's preference for ordinary people and commonplace settings came only partly from Henri's teaching. For Glackens , Luks, Shinn and Sloan it also came from their training as newspaper artists. Rapidly and accurately they had sketched the news of the day: murders, fires and parades. As painters they retained their eye for the immediate scene. Detesting false charm, they expressed the moods and caught the excitement of the city as no American artists had done before them.


John Sloan "Wake of the Ferry"

The Eight have been followed by a whole lot of would be Europeanism, and foreign inspired romanticism. Even Pop art has it's start in England. To find what is truly American in art, one has only to re-examine the Ashcan School. It is the true legacy of every American Painter.

Copyright 2004 Netgazettes Publications. All rights reserved.

Here is a link to a much more in depth article on the Ashcans: http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/6aa/6aa55.htm It was four pages long , so I linked it instead of posting it.

I hope you enjoy this group and would like to copy a painting or two, or do your own work in the spirit of the movement, in any medium you like. Please add any comments or other articles and post it all here.


08-01-2009, 07:33 AM

ROBERT HENRI (1865-1929)



Taught some of the Ashcan artists and for a while was leader of the group. He seemed to do more portraits than street scenes and pool halls, but he inspired, and a collection of his notes to students, thoughts on the art life, and fragments of letters were published in 1923 and still read today.


JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)


OK, He's my favorite so he gets more pictures.

Night Windows

McSorley's saloon

McSorley's back room

from "The Old House at Home" (1940)
by Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996)

McSorley's bar is short, accommodating approximately ten elbows, and is shored up with iron pipes. It is to the right as you enter. To the left is a row of armchairs with their stiff backs against the wainscoting. The chairs are rickety; when a fat man is sitting in one, it squeaks like new shoes every time he takes a breath. The customers believe in sitting down; if there are vacant chairs, no one ever stands at the bar. Down the middle of the room is a row of battered tables. Their tops are always sticky with spilled ale. In the centre of the room stands the belly stove, which has an isinglass door and is exactly like the stoves in Elevated stations. All winter Kelly keeps it red hot. "Warmer you get, drunker you get," he says. Some customers prefer mulled ale. They keep their mugs on the hob until the ale gets as hot as coffee. A sluggish cat named Minnie sleeps in a scuttle beside the stove. The floor boards are warped, and here and there a hole has been patched with a flattened-out soup can. The back room looks out on a blind tenement court. In this room are three big, round dining room tables. The kitchen is in one corner of the room; Mike keeps a folding boudoir screen around the gas range, and pots, pans, and paper bags of groceries are stored on the mantelpiece. While he peels potatoes, he sits with early customers at a table out front, holding a dishpan in his lap and talking as he peels. The fare in McSorley's is plain, cheap, and well cooked. Mike's specialties are goulash, frankfurters, and sauerkraut, and hamburgers blanketed with fried onions. He scribbles his menus in chalk on a slate which hangs in the bar-room and constantly misspells four dishes out of five. There is no waiter. During the lunch hour, if Mike is too busy to wait on the customers, they grab plates and help themselves out of the pots on the range.

"The Old House at Home" originally appeared in The New Yorker in 1940 and was reprinted in McSorley's Wonderful Saloon, published by Random House


08-01-2009, 09:00 AM

EVERETT SHINN (1876-1953)


Wonderful circus paintings.



ARTHUR B. DAVIES (1863-1928)


Since he was one of the principle organizers of the Armory Show of 1913, here is a link to an exhibition to die for,,,


ERNEST LAWSON (1873-1939)


Stuyvesant Square in winter


08-01-2009, 09:32 AM




Washington Square

GEORGE LUKS (1867-1928)


Had a terrible death, poor man.

Bleeker Street

Hester Street


08-01-2009, 09:50 AM
GEORGE BELLOWS (1882-1925)


A student of Robert Henri, he might be the best known of them all.

Dempsey fight


Maurice Prendergast(Oldies but Goodies) was one of The Eight but not so much the Ashcans and Edward Hopper was also considered by some to be part of this group ???

Since most of these artists were either students or teachers at The Art Students League here's a link to them:


Hope you will enjoy this series. Anyone who would like to host a movement or group, please let me know in the main thread.

Janet :heart:

08-01-2009, 11:42 AM
WOW, Janet. You've given us an amazing project. I know nothing about this group of artists but their work is wonderful and I look forward to exploring.

08-02-2009, 12:08 PM
Wow, Janet, these are all so pretty. I want to do almost all of the ones you posted. I like it that they are not so clear and precise and it's just the general mood and yet you could see so much, especially the pieces with a lot of people. Love those. I really need to sit down and get my paints out!!!

I happened to have done a piece of sketch of Bellows' work while I was practicing Daumier a few months ago. I've seen only the boxer piece you posted in black and white and didn't realize it was in colors before.


Thank you for all the information, Janet. I appreciate it! So glad to have found this section.

08-03-2009, 08:14 PM
Lots of good movement in your drawing, Sandra. Bellows did quite a few fighting pictures, so he must of hung out in arenas quite a bit.

Wish I could find some pool hall pictures. They would fit in with this group.

Glad you like this series June and Sandra. :heart:

08-05-2009, 10:14 PM
Here are my two renditions.

Richard Schiff


John Sloan's Night Window


08-06-2009, 05:07 AM
:clap: Sandra. Good work. People actually sat and read together years ago, a nice domestic scene. Whatever you used for Night Windows (charcoal, graphite?) gave the picture the look of a lithograph. I see you put a boy on the roof, that's what I thought but could not see it too well and thought it might be just a bunch of chimney pots :)

08-06-2009, 12:49 PM
Thank you, Janet. I used HB pencil for lines and a HB woodless pencil for shading in Night Windows and then darkened it in Photoshop. In real life, I could have used 6B to do the same thing but I was just lazy. Yeah, it's actually a man on top of the roof that drew my attention in this pix and the lighting. I have always wanted to draw something like this for Asian cityscapes and now I got to practice it.

08-06-2009, 04:17 PM
Awesome project Janet

Sandra - love your posts

08-10-2009, 08:16 PM
Here are two more.

This one is Ernest Lawson. I used my cheap gouache and realized I really have no patience for watermedia. LOL. I didn't bother to wait for it to dry although I have to say this paint dries very quickly too.

Here's my original version.


I then gave it poster edges in photoshop.


After this, I desperately needed much broader strokes. It always happens to me. After some fine detail work, I needed to rough a painting up. What's better than oil pastel.

Gallery Oil Pastel of John Sloan's piece.


08-11-2009, 07:44 AM
Sandra. you really picked some complicated pieces and did them very well. You may not be too crazy about water media but I love the feeling of the Lawson painting and the enhanced version is interesting too. Think I'll try poster edges on some of my stuff and see what happens.

Your OP of Sloan's ferry certainly is stormy, and again, you get the feeling of the original.

Hey! I better get with it, you will have a whole sketchbook of Ashcans before I even get started. :lol:

08-11-2009, 05:10 PM
Thank you, Janet. I felt so much better after getting to do a big arm movement piece. I'll do one more in a bit.

08-12-2009, 01:00 PM
Some beautiful studies there Sandra. I love that OP as you reallly get the feeling of stormy water from it.

I like the gouache of the bridge also. i wonder, on my acrylic painting medium, it says if you mix with Gouache or watercolour you can render the paint a little waterproof and maybe it would dry quicker too? I never tried it myself.

The black & white works are delightful too. You got all the characters well in the lady reading. And the contrasts in the night scene.:thumbsup:

I am dragging my feet a little as I haven't even picked one to do.:crying:

08-18-2009, 02:28 PM
Good going Sandra -

I am swamped but hope to do something for this thread before the end of August. Do most of the pieces appear somewhat blurry to others? not alot of real hard edges - is this the ashcan effect?

Maybe I just need to read the link. :o

08-18-2009, 02:40 PM
Hi, Robin....I think it was more a rebellion against the establishment...such as subject matter. Painting real life, people, scenes...gritty, instead of pretty. The painting technique of the artists were all different.

The movement didn't last long and everyone went their own painterly way, though a few stuck to the realist approach.

I haven't started on anything yet, but think I'll do something 'in the spirit of' rather than a copy. I like the circus as a kick off. :heart:

08-19-2009, 09:33 AM

A not very successful attempt at the tightrope walker in resist. 7 by 9 ins, oil pastels, ink, watercolour paper.

I think I may try one later 'in the spirit of' rather than a copy as I'd like to try looking at my own environment as they looked at theirs...if you know what I mean.

I've got a few photos I took of local streets in snow...might do one of those if time permits.;)

08-20-2009, 05:59 AM
June, doing a painting of your own environment is certainly in the spirit of this art movement. Think I will do the same.

By the way...I like the wax resist walker. :cool:

08-20-2009, 12:20 PM

Here he is again in multi-colours.:D

I used Japanese rice paper to get the background textures and acrylic paints over it for colour. Same size as before.

Great fun to do.:D For me, the second painting gives more of a sensation of the razamatazz of the theatre.

08-21-2009, 04:02 AM
Yeah, June! :thumbsup:

08-21-2009, 08:00 AM
June - that is a cutting edge piece - very introspective, sharp edges but blurry too.......has an industrial flavor somehow......

Janet - I too want to do my own environ - soon I hope

08-23-2009, 06:58 PM
June you have two beautiful piece but the second one is magical. I think it should be the cover to a kid's book for circus tightrope walking! :clap: :clap:

I didn't want the month to go by without doing a couple more of these. I love this period. Seriously, one month is not enough because just this section alone has so many things going on!

I had a 1/3 done oil pastel piece on this page of the Pentalic 130 lbs watercolor paper but abandoned it because the texture was too rough so I whipped out my Winsor & Newton Water Mixable Oil and painted right on without an undercoat. You could see some residue blue and green of a sunny day still but I like it. This paint is so easy to use!

Based on George Lukas' Bleeker Street.


The other half page, I did Ernest Lawson's Stuvesyant Square in Winter. The residue oil pastel underneath so you see green, brown and blue. Lightly covered with the same oil paint and for white snow, I used an eraser liquid pen and the Japanese oil paint marker. :lol:


I have to say I'm very impressed with the Pentalic 130 lb sketch book. After all that oil paint, the page didn't even blink - I mean curl - not even a single bit. Wow. I think I'm going to stock up on this sketchbook the next time I go shopping again.

08-23-2009, 07:21 PM
These are 2 really good pieces Sandra.:clap: :clap: I love the rich dark colours in the first one and the snow scene is just beautiful... I can really feel that snow. I can see you love this period.

Many thanks for the comments on my tight-rope walker. I like the second one best too. Often it takes a few attempts to 'understand' the subject matter.;)

08-24-2009, 07:17 AM
Sandra, I really like these two pieces with their OP underneath and the color showing through....does remind me of NYC (my home town) The second one would make a beautirul Christmas card.

I'll try to sit down and get something done on this thread today. We have had a terrible heatwave here and even with A/C I haven't been able to accomplish much. :heart:

08-26-2009, 09:49 AM
Thank you, June, Janet, for your comments. It is such a fun way to use up old paintings.

June, you glued Japanese rice paper onto the canvas paper and painted over it?

You know, I've been experimenting on Japanese rice paper and I could use color pencils and soft pastel on it now. But I still have to try spraying fixative on the soft pastel. As soon as I find my spray cans.

08-26-2009, 10:56 AM
A quickie sketch...


08-26-2009, 08:07 PM
Very nice airy feel to it, Janet! Especially the clothes! Charcoal?

08-26-2009, 09:27 PM
Sandra - two great pieces - can see you really shine in this vein......lovely. I like hearing about what art tools work best. Might come in handy. All those unusual "art mediums" too!!!! that is creative freedom and it looks great!

Janet - so light and airy.....I like how the sheets(or is it diapers) are a different tone.....gesso?

08-27-2009, 06:14 AM
Thanks all....Used charcoal and thought I could wipe in the laundry, but ended up having to use a little white acrylic.

Did it pretty fast, because I was afraid I wouldn't have anything by end of month, but now the weather has cooled off and I think I'll try to do some more this weekend. :heart:

08-30-2009, 01:37 PM
Here are two city windows...



Hope you enjoyed the Ashcan artists. On to The Fauves in September.....and COLOR, COLOR, COLOR. :heart: :heart:

08-30-2009, 11:13 PM
I love those clothes blowing in the wind Janet. And also the windows. Are these from observation / imagination?

08-31-2009, 03:26 PM
Janet, great cat piece. Not only the cat is in a great relaxed pose, the curtains flapping outside makes the painting so airy. Nice job.