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John Sloan (1871–1951)
Copeland and Day (Boston)
Cinder-Path Tales, 1896
color lithograph
60 x 34.6 cm (23 5/8 x 13 5/8 in.)
Brenda and Gary Ruttenberg

Sloan said that his posters were done from "memory and imagination of real life. . . . Of the French poster artists I was most influenced by Steinlen. I liked the humanism with which he drew people, and learned from him technical devices about using crayon to make shading that could be used for linecut reproduction. It was mostly from a study of Japanese prints that I found fresh ideas about design discovered in observing everyday life."

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Biography of John Sloan

Educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, John Sloan began his career in the visual arts as an illustrator for the Philadelphia Inquirer and went on to become one of America's best-known painters and printmakers.

Sloan was an important member of the Ashcan School, a group of painters working in New York City during the first decades of the twentieth century. Sloan's style is marked by a characteristic crowding of forms and grainy tonality that sought to convey the rapid movement and changing atmosphere of the new metropolis.

Sloan was also an accomplished illustrator and graphic designer. His drawings were published in periodicals such as Everybody's Magazine, Harper's Weekly, Collier's, and The Chap-Book. Participating in the enthusiasm for posters that swept the country in the 1890s, Sloan designed his first poster in 1893. He went on to produce posters for numerous commercial firms and also for Moods, The Echo, and the publisher Copeland and Day. A number of his designs reveal the influence of Japanese prints, an interest he shared with many of his fellow artists. Sloan spoke in particular of having been influenced by the Japanese artist Beizen Zubota. He was also aware of the impact of English artist Aubrey Beardsley's work on many American poster designers. However, Sloan was not entirely comfortable with Beardsley's work, as he noted in a discussion of the artists who had influenced him:

My poster style was always different from Beardsley's. It was done from memory and imagination of real life and is less ornamental in design. While I admire some of Beardsley's remarkable patterns and skillful drawing, I myself do not care for the kind of decadent and bizarre quality in his work. I prefer the wholesome kind of humor that comes out in ribaldry. Of the French poster artists I was most influenced by Steinlen. I liked the humanism with which he drew people, and learned from him technical devices about using crayon to make shading which could be used for linecut reproduction. It was mostly from a study of Japanese prints that I found fresh ideas about design, discovered in observing everyday life.

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