The Puzzling World of John Sloan

Produced by Michael O’Reilly

John Sloan was an artist who lived and worked in both Philadelphia and New York City at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. He went to Philadelphia Central High School with William Glackens and Albert Barnes (of THE BARNES FOUNDATION fame) and when he was living in New York City, he was friendly with playwright Eugene O’Neill and John Reed (the main protagonist in the movie REDS). In between high school and New York, he was an illustrator for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Press where he excelled at producing a weekly puzzle. A newly restored collection of these full-color puzzles is featured in a recently installed exhibition, The Puzzling World of John Sloan at the Delaware Art Museum, in Wilmington, Delaware.

While in New York, Sloan pursued the life of a painter and was a part of the “ashcan school” – this was an artistic movement in the United States during the early twentieth century that is best known for works portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. Paintings of gritty realism produced only lackluster sales, and yet Sloan continued to teach and paint, advising his students, “I have nothing to teach you that will help you to make a living.”

When Sloan died in 1951, he was survived by his wife (forty years his junior) Helen Farr Sloan, herself an artist and a former student. It was she that began to organize, catalog and donate Sloan’s paintings from a vast collection of unsold work to museums, including the Delaware Art Museum, which holds one of the largest collections in the country of John Sloan’s work. Everything from puzzles, on display in this special exhibition, to paintings; The work of the Sloan’s, both Helen and John, is hung upstairs, together, on view in the permanent collection.


Extra: Howard Pyle’s Picturesque Pirates

Produced by Michael O’Reilly, Edited by: Kelsey Styles
Heather Campbell Coyle, curator of American art at the Delaware Art Museum, discusses the museum’s recently-installed Howard Pyle collection. Pyle was a Delaware illustrator who helped create our modern concept of legendary characters such as Robin Hood and, as this video further explains, pirates.


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