JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
2 More
JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
5 More
Property from the Collection of Morton and Norma Lee Funger
JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)

Cornelia Street

JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
Cornelia Street
signed '-John Sloan' (lower left)
oil on canvas
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1920.
Kraushaar Galleries, New York.
Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman, Detroit, Michigan.
Dr. Irving F. Burton.
Mrs. Irving Frederick.
Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 18 October 1972, lot 35.
Acquired by the late owners from the above.
A.H. Ross, A Checklist for John Sloan’s Paintings, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, 1970, p. 7.
R. Elzea, John Sloan's Oil Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné, Newark, Delaware, 1991, p. 246, no. 638, illustrated.
J. Loughery, John Sloan: Painter and Rebel, New York, 1995, p. 257.
M.A. Erhardt, E. Broun, The Norma Lee and Martin Funger Art Collection, Lunenberg, Vermont, 1999, pp. 36-37, illustrated.
New York, Artists Cooperative Gallery, Opening Exhibition, November 16, 1922-?
New York, Kraushaar Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings by John Sloan, April 6-May 5, 1923, no. 12.
Boston, Massachusetts, E.T. Slattery Co., Exhibition of Distinguished Contemporary American Artists, March 8-20, 1937, no. 32.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Milwaukee Art Center, American Paintings 1760-1960, March 3-April 3, 1960, p. 87, illustrated.
Wilmington, Delaware, Delaware Art Museum; Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Westmoreland Museum of American Art; Chicago, Illinois, The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Seeing the City: John Sloan’s New York, October 20, 2007-January 4, 2009, pp. 68, 70-71, fig. 53, back cover illustration.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

A bold and immersive cityscape, John Sloan’s Cornelia Street is both a love letter to the building which housed the artist’s old studio as well as poignant social commentary on the rapidly changing neighborhood. One of the most important documenters of New York City in the early 20th century, Philadelphia-born artist John Sloan moved to the city in 1904 and spent the next several decades recording everyday life in the continually modernizing metropolis. Sloan was a leading figure of a group of realist painters known as the Ashcan School. Mentored by Robert Henri, this Philadelphia-based group of artists included Sloan, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn and eventually George Bellows. Featuring darker palettes, their work focused on the gritty underbelly of the city and often aligned with the political and social commentaries of the day. The term Ashcan School originated from a 1915 drawing by Bellows, which was ironically captioned Disappointments of the Ash Can and eventually adopted by critics. The group exhibited in several notable New York exhibitions, most famously as The Eight at Macbeth Galleries, which defied the notion of “art for arts sake.”

Cornelia Street depicts the distinctive building located at 2 Cornelia Street, also known as the Varitype Building or the “Greenwich Flatiron.” Erected in 1907, the Beaux Arts style property was among the first structures constructed with a steel-frame in New York City, and was used for commercial purposes until its conversion to a residential building in 1982. On the left is the Sixth Avenue Elevated Train, known as the “Sixth Avenue El,” which was an active subway from 1878 to 1938. To the right of the Varitype building is Cornelia Street, intersecting with Bleecker Street in the distance. Throughout the composition, Sloan brilliantly employs both natural and artificial light—combining street lamps and train lights with the brilliant sunset in the upper register.

Notably, the Varitype building is where Sloan kept his studio from 1912-1915 after he first moved to the neighborhood. Heather Campbell Coyle notes, “Cornelia Street memorializes Sloan’s old studio building, which he left in 1915, and the small street west of it, with its bustling crowd of pedestrians. Set at sunset, the painting evokes nostalgia. Even as it embraces a modern vertical format and features a tall building, its title identifies the subject not as the building but as the street at the center of the canvas.” (John Sloan’s New York, exhibition catalogue, New Haven, Connecticut, 2007, p. 68) Cornelia Street also relates to Sloan’s last major city scene, The City from Greenwich Village (1922, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). Sloan completed both paintings from the roof of his studio at 88 Washington Place, and his preparatory drawings of this view relate to both final works. Another view from his studio, his vertical composition Jefferson Market (1917, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia), shows the city and Sixth Avenue El from a different vantage point.

The inclusion of both Sloan’s old studio and the train in Cornelia Street can be seen as a commentary on the rapidly changing New York—a theme in which many artists of this era, such as the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, showed interest. When Sloan first moved to the neighborhood in 1912, Greenwich Village was the creative heartbeat of the city and a haven for bohemian artists and writers. However, by the 1920s the neighborhood was beginning to evolve. A new subway line built in the late teens made the area accessible via both Wall Street and Times Square, as did the extension of Seventh Avenue, which went south through the neighborhood. Such developments brought tourists who wanted to see firsthand the neighborhood’s bohemian reputation.

Always keen to express social commentary through his paintings, Sloan was well aware of the changes in his neighborhood and continued to depict the Village in works such as Sixth Avenue Elevated at Third Street (1928, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York); The Lafayette (1927, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); and Wet Night, Washington Square (1928, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware). Helen Campbell Coyle and Joyce K. Schiller explain, “By 1924, Sloan had been ‘accepted as a leading interpreter of certain New York characters.’ As his New York paintings began to sell in the 1920s, Sloan came to realize that part of their appeal was as documents of a city that was constantly remarking on itself.” (John Sloan’s New York, p. 71) Indeed, as the art critic and dealer Henry Salpeter observed in 1936, “The fun of being a New York painter, says Sloan, even today, is that landmarks are torn down so rapidly that your canvases become historical records almost before the paint on them is dry.” (as quoted in John Sloan’s New York, p. 71)

More from Modern American Art

View All
View All