JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
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JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
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Property from an Estate, Flint, Michigan
JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)

Buses in the Square

JOHN SLOAN (1871-1951)
Buses in the Square
oil and tempera on canvas
33 x 41 in. (83.8 x 104.1 cm.)
Painted in 1925 and 1951.
Kraushaar Galleries, New York, 1927.
John Sloan Memorial Foundation.
Kraushaar Galleries, New York.
Acquired by the late owners from the above, 1983.
J. Sloan, Gist of Art, New York, 1939, p. 289, illustrated.
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, The Art of John Sloan, 1871-1951, vol. 18, Brunswick, Maine, 1962, n.p., illustrated.
R. Elzea, John Sloan: Spectator of Life, exhibition catalogue, Wilmington, Delaware, 1988, p. 3, illustrated.
R. Elzea, John Sloan’s Oil Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné, Part 2, Newark, Delaware, 1991, pp. 279-80, no. 755, illustrated.
New York, Anderson Galleries, New Society of Artists: 7th Exhibition, January 6-30, 1926, no. 112 (as Spring, Washington Square).
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Minneapolis Institute of Art; San Francisco, California, California Palace of the Legion of Honor; Denver, Colorado, Denver Art Museum; New Orleans, Louisiana, Arts and Crafts Club; Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fogg Art Museum; New York, Art Students League, Exhibition of Painting of the Whitney Studio Club, December 1927-May 19, 1928, no. 30.
Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Museum, Exhibition of the American Federation of Arts, May 1931, no. 41.
New York, Grand Central Palace, 18th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, April 13-May 6, 1934, no. 989.
New York, Wanamaker Galleries; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Wanamaker Galleries, John Sloan: Paintings, Etchings, and Drawings, November 4, 1939-January 29, 1940, no. 46.
New York, Hudson Guild Neighborhood House, John Sloan Exhibition of Paintings, February 8-28, 1940, no. 13.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Toledo, Ohio, Toledo Museum of Art, January 10-June 8, 1952, John Sloan 1871-1951, no. 58.
Flint, Michigan, Flint Institute of Arts, 2006-2022, on loan.

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Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

From 1915-1927, Ashcan School artist John Sloan lived in an apartment and studio at 88 Washington Place in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, just a few steps away from Washington Square Park. Sloan first moved to New York in 1904 and spent the next decades documenting everyday life in the continually modernizing metropolis. A bold and impressive cityscape, Buses in the Square is both a love letter to and poignant social commentary on the artist’s rapidly changing neighborhood.

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 neighborhood accessible via both Wall Street and Times Square, as did the the extension of Seventh Avenue which went south through the neighborhood. Simultaneously, tourism began to infiltrate the area: “the Village became a tourist destination – ‘a side-show for tourists, a peep-show for vulgarians, a commercial exhibit of tawdry Bohemianism’—especially at night. The tourists came on buses and were dropped off at the foot of Fifth Avenue in Washington Square, a scene that Sloan depicted more than once…The Village clubs and restaurants that catered to the tourist trade built on the neighborhood’s bohemian reputation, promising visitors the opportunity to gawk at the area’s unconventional population.” (J.K. Schiller, H. C. Coyle, “John Sloan’s Urban Encounters,” John Sloans New York, exhibition catalogue, New Haven, Connecticut, 2007, p. 68)

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 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 Sloans 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 Sloans New York, p. 71)

For the present painting, Sloan’s subject was clearly inspired from real life experience observing tourists in Washington Square Park. He remarked on the etching of the same subject from 1925: “Holiday afternoons and Sunday were busy days for the Riverside Drive busses [sic] leaving the Square. My studio windows overlooked this patient crowd; this etching and similar scenes resulted.” (as quoted in John Sloan: The Art of the Printmaker, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1999, p. 3) Regarding the present work, Sloan commented in 1926, “On summer afternoons and holidays long lines of waiting customers piled onto the roof of each departing bus. This picture depicts a day in spring with the new leaves of the trees in the park new-born into a dusty world.” (as quoted in R. Elzea, John Sloan's Oil Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné, part two, Newark, Delaware, 1991, pp. 279-80)

In 1951, Sloan reworked part of the present work, cleaning the painting and readdressing some of the glazing. He noted in his diary that June, “I painted a long while this morning on the ‘Busses [sic] in Wash. Square’ canvas and it is quite a lot better than it was originally.” (as quoted in John Sloan's Oil Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné, p. 755).

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