Author: Lobel, Michael
Date published: September 1, 2011
In the process of researching John Sloan's signature urban scenes of about 1907, I canie across one particularly illuminating bit of documentary evidence regarding his memorable painting Hairdresser's Window. One of several signs affixed to the building facade in that picture seems to identify its main subject, a hairdresser tending to a client, as one "Madam Malcoinb." That name struck a chord when I discovered, in a 1901 issue of the Smart Set ("A magazine of cleverness"), an advertisement for the services of Mme Malcolm, a "hair and complexion specialist" in New York City (Fig. I).1 The advertised location of her shop, at 491 Sixth Avenue between Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Streets, suggests that she may veiy well have been the inspiration for the canvas, as this was just six blocks or so up Sixth Avenue from Sloan's apartment and studio on Twenty-third Street, and many of his images from this period capture that very stretch of Sixth Avenue. Further, a sign just below the central window in the painting bears the name of the hair product Curline, also mentioned in the advertisement.
In theory, then, we could just end things right there: the "real-life" historical subject of the painting has been located, and one might conclude that this firmly establishes the picture as a visual record of contemporary life. However, what I want to do here is close to the reverse: to emphasize the status of Sloan's pictures not as documents of turn-of-die-certtury urban experience but radier as complex meditations on art and picturing. The period during which he painted Hairdresser's Window was a significant one for Sloan. Several years prior, he had been let go from his position as a staff illustrator on the Philadelphia Press newspaper. He subsequently moved to New York to join a circle of friends and colleagues that included Robert Henri, William Glackens, and Everett Shinn. Although he was still producing newspaper and magazine illustrations to support himself, he was devoting more and more time to his own painting. That was certainly clear in 1907, a busy year diat saw him finish a grand total of twentyeight paintings. Scholars who have chronicled Sloan's career have regularly noted that this was an extremely productive time for him, likely in part because it was the lead-up to the February 1908 opening of an independent exhibition that he and his colleagues were organizing.* That show, at the Macbeth Galleries in New York, put the group that would come to be known as the Eight on the map.
As Heather Campbell Coyle and Joyce Schiller have pointed out, the seven paintings that Sloan chose to include in the 1908 Macbedi exhibition were more or less unified in their focus on urban subjects. They thus connected up with the body of city life etchings he had begun working on soon after his arrival in New York, and they take dieir place in the broader treatment of urban subjects for which members of his circle, also identified as the Ashcan school, would become known. Sloan had more on his mind, though, than simply depicting the life of the city around him. As we will see, several key paintings from this period, including Hairdresser's Window, Election Night, and Movies, Five Cents - all of which were in the Macbedi show - speak to Sloan's sense of himself as an artist, particularly within the context of his ongoing professional shift from illustrator to painter. In these pictures, Sloan consistency figured painting within the fabric of contemporary urban life.
Painting through the Window
In Hairdresser's Window (Fig. 2), Sloan conjures a vivid urban vignette, one that has inspired a diverse array of scholarly interpretations. It has been related to the growth of a consumer culture oriented to women; analyzed within die dieoretically derived category of panoptic vision; invoked as exemplary of a turn-of-the-century culture of urban looking; and even seen, di rough a psychoanalytic lens, as a way for Sloan to work through his deep-seated and ambivalent feelings about women.4 Some of diese issues no doubt contribute, to a greater or lesser extent, to the painting's density of meanings. Yet the picture is compelling also because it served as a profound meditation on the medium that Sloan was more thoroughly embracing as his own at the time.
According to a record in Sloan's diary, the inspiration for Hairdresser's Window came from a scene he encountered during one of his walks in the city. On June 5, 1907, he wrote, "Walked up to Henri's studio. On the way saw a humorous sight of interest. A window, low, second story, bleached blond hair dresser bleaching die hair of a client. A small interested crowd about."5 To begin, it is significant that Sloan implicates Robert Henri in his account of the origin of hte picture, for his entry underscores that the motif occurred to him on his way to visit another painter's studio. The following day, he recorded, "Walked out to take another look at the Hair Restorer's Window. Came back and started to paint it." His emphasis on going back to confirm his initial impression of the motif, along with the general correspondence between the painting and the first diary entry, could reasonably lead one to conclude that the resulting picture is not much more than a documentary record of die "actual" scene he had witnessed - even diough Sloan's approach, as Rebecca Zurier reminds us, "was based on images seen and remembered (and sometimes written down) radier tiian sketched in the street. . . ."6 Hairdresser's Window presents us with the flat facade of a building that is parallel to (one might almost say coincident with) the picture plane. That facade is studded with hand-lettered advertising signs. Through a window above we spy die hairdresser of the tide, who with the help of an assistant is treating a client's long, flowing locks. On the sidewalk below, a crowd has assembled to gawk at this sight, which in bringing an otiierwise private aspect of a woman's toilette into public view may very well have challenged the bounds of propriety at the time. A host of small, seemingly insignificant details contributes to the vividness and ostensibly reportorial character of the scene: the gloves worn by the hairdresser; the brightly colored flowers on the woman's hat at right; the mannequin heads in a glass display case; and the woman in profile at far left, who passes by without acknowledging the scene that draws our attention as well as that of the rest of the assembled onlookers.
If these accumulated details suggest a realist recording of an observed scene, the organization of the picture shows how much Sloan was attuned to issues of composition, carefully and self-consciously attending to the picture's formal structure. His attunement to formal concerns is evident in the complex ways that the painting plays off surface and depth. One might initially take the building as presenting a totally flat facade, almost like a stage set, with the three figures in the window directíy behind it and the sidewalk viewers in front. A second look, though, reveals numerous elements that introduce additional indications of depth, although they are decidedly ambiguous. In the upper left corner is an object that looks to be a sign hanging perpendicular to the building facade, onto which it casts a long, diagonal shadow. There is also an archi tectural feature, something like a projecting display window or false front, visible at lower right. (It is capped by a sign reading "cow," which one takes as an advertising sign for a store selling gowns, although the cropping leaves this identification ultimately unclear.) This feature presents us with noticeable spatial ambiguities: Are we supposed to read that standing female figure, left hand on hip, as a mannequin in a store window, or is this, rather, a flat poster or painted bulletin affixed to the building front? The picture's play with spatial ambiguity is particularly evident in the motif of the three swatches of hair (brown, auburn, and blonde) that hang from a diagonal element to the right of the hairdresser's window. Does that wire or rod project out from the corner of the sign, into space, or is it instead meant to be read as a receding element, connected back to the building facade? Neither reading is particularly convincing; if it's the former, the orientation of the rod doesn't correspond convincingly with the overall perspectival rendering. If it's the latter, the length of each swatch doesn't make sense, since the left one should be farthest away from us and, thus, the shortest; the recession we would expect has been reversed here, as if to totally confound our expectations of how it should work.
Other paintings by Sloan from this period show a similar tendency to toy with these sorts of spatial ambiguities and, in this way, to draw attention to the play of pigment on the surface of the canvas.' On one level, this isn't particularly notable, since there was a long-standing tradition among such European moderns as Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, and the Impressionists - all of whom would have been well known to Sloan and his fellow Ashcan artists - of employing technical effects such as flattening/and gestural paint handling. In Hairdresser's Window, however, these effects have been given a particular focus: Sloan makes a close connection between his own painterly effort and the hand-painted signs arrayed across the building facade. As Robert Snyder and Zurier have noted, "A witty arrangement makes visual equations between the rectangular window, the placards that punningly advertise hair products, and the flat, frontal canvas itself."8 The signs, taken together, also introduce types of spatial ambiguity - a loss of the distinction between surface and depth - similar to what we have already seen occurring elsewhere in the picture. Although the bulk of these handlettered placards are hung flush on the facade, several, specifically the "cow" at lower right and "manicure," below to the left of center, are not in the same plane as the building front. The "manicure" sign, for instance, clearly sits in a separate plane, closer to the viewer than the signs oil the facade, since it is affixed to a display case positioned on the sidewalk in front of the building. Yet that's not how it functions pictorially. Any assumed distance between the building facade and the display case basically collapses, an effect that is only magnified by the broad outline painted around the edges of the sign, which is rendered in the same pigment as the lettering.
Sloan's approach to lettering further conflates those depicted signboards, whatever spatial plané we think they should occupy, with the surface of his painting. The letters, particularly those in the central "ciurline" sign, have been rendered in loose, looping paint strokes that reassert the facticity of the canvas surface. There's a correlation here of the canvas and the hand-lettered sign - a correlation between what Sloan is doing and what a sign painter does. And the relation may work the other way as well. That is to say, while this is ostensibly a picture of a building facade studded with signs, the overall arrangement of rectangular elements (both placards and windows) arrayed on a wall also resembles the crowded salon-style hanging that would have been familiar to turn-of-the-century art viewers. Sloan may very well be drawing connections between the crowd that has assembled on the sidewalk here and the crowds of art viewers who stare up at framed pictures in images like his Connoisseurs of Prints (1905, Fig. 3) and Copyist at the Metropolitan Museum (1908). The central horizontal element in Hairdresser's Window, which divides the composition roughly in half, may even suggest the preoccupation that painters of the time had with whether their artwork would be hung on, above, or below "the line." This is underscored by the punning reference ("[h]ung low") on the sign at lower left. Painters of the time often worried that in large exhibitions their pictures would be "skied," or placed high on the wall. Sloan was certainly aware of this. In his diary entries he commented repeatedly on the placement of his paintings in exhibitions.9 Could it be that Hairdresser's Window reclaims or reverses the conventional negative connotations of one's picture being hung high, in that the primary narrative and pictorial focus of the scene is placed relatively high up on the facade?
Whatever the case, all of these various aspects of the picture-the play with and collapse of surface and depth, the loosely painted lettering, the connection between hand-lettered placards and easel paintings- together con-elate or confiate the work of the easel painter and the sign painter. When Sloan hand-lettered tiiose signs in Hairdresser's Window, he was essentially taking on the role of the sign painter. For this reason we might interpret the comment of the critic who in 1908 dismissed Sloan's approach as "die kind of realism which has become familiar through die study of advertising fences" not as disparaging, as it was intended, but rather as recognizing an important aspect of the artist's work.10 During this period, Sloan rarely, if ever, portrayed himself in the conventional guise of an easel painter - no brush poised, no palette grasped, no looming easel, as one so often sees in painters' self-portraits.11 Yet, significantly, in two instances he depicted himself as a letterer or sign painter. Those two instances help illuminate the context of Sloan's professional commitments at the time, since they occurred not in paintings or prints but rather in commercial illustrations - more specifically, in two newspaper word puzzles from 1909.
Sloan's word puzzles represent one of his more lasting endeavors as an illustrator. They appeared every Sunday in the Philadelphia Press for the better part of a decade. In fact, they were so popular that he continued to produce them even after he left the staff of tiie Press and moved to New York City, each week sending a puzzle back to Philadelphia from his new home. These weekly word puzzles take basically die same format, a grid of ten rebuslike panels, each of which corresponds to a broader theme, such as musical instruments, baseball terms, or, as in the puzzle from April 4, 1909, the names of different types of harnesses (Fig. 4). Sloan inserted his self-portrait into the second panel of that puzzle: puffing on his trademark pipe, he holds à can of paint in one hand and a brush in die other (Fig. 5). He is joined by another man, tall and lanky, lUcely the Philadelphia Press's Sunday editor, Alden March, who points to a letter painted on the wall.12 It makes sense diat he is an editor, since he's doing what editors are wont to do: he is instructing Sloan to change diat ornate, Godiic letter H, for fear that otherwise "the public won't know what that is!" (The puzzle asks, "What names for harness are represented here?" The answer that this particular panel provides is "Halter" - H plus "alter.") Curiously, three of the panels in the row below contain images of a plein air painter with all of die conspicuous accoutrements of his profession - ease!, canvas, brushes, palette, and paint box, as if to further underscore, consciously or not, Sloan's distance from such a conventional representation of the painter for his own portrayal. Just two weeks earlier, he had included a roughly identical self-portrait as letter painter in a panel for another word puzzle, which asked, "What terms from the arithmetic are these?" (Fig. 6). Similarly outfitted with pipe, brush, and paint pot, he stands before a wall on which he has painted an enormous X, exclaiming, "There, that's big enough!" (The answer the panel is meant to supply is X plus "ample": "Example.")
These word puzzles help us understand several things about Sloan's approach. For one, they show us that he had long-standing experience creating images that were expressly meant to be scrutinized and decoded. It is thus not surprising that some of his best-known pictures, including Hairdresser's Window, are densely packed with elements that call out to be read and interpreted - and thus reward close visual analysis. The panels we've considered are just a few examples of Sloan's broader tendency to insert images of himself and his friends and family into his weekly word puzzles for the Press. No doubt one appeal for this lay in the simple fact that the models were close at hand. Further, doing so also clearly allowed him to introduce a degree of self-reflexivity into his commercial work. It is telling, then, that in both of the 19Ö9 puzzle panels Sloan portrays himself as a letter or sign painter, particularly in light of the prominence he had given to the hand-lettered placards in Hairdresser's Window. In fact, many of his urban paintings of this period incorporate lettering, whether the projected election reports in Election Night (1907; Fig. 14) or the signage in The Haymarket (1907) and The Carmine Street Theater (1912). Hairdresser's Window is distinctive only in the prominence it gives to that lettering, and in its assertive hand-painted quality.
These examples would already be enough to establish that on some level, Sloan was aligning his own painterly Work with types of commercial or vernacular painting. Further evidence confirms iL Here we need to look closely again at Hairdresser's Window and to consider another, central motif that has, to the best of my knowledge, gone unremarked in the literature on the work. I'm referring to the figure of the hairdresser and, more specifically, to the activity in which she is engaged. She is noi cutting the woman's hair nor styling it. She seems, rather, to be dyeing or tinting it. Although in his diary entry Sloan mentions bleaching, in the painting he used a slightly different (somewhat redder) hue to render the area of the client's hair between the brush and the hairdresser's left hand, as if to emphasize that pigment is being applied. However we interpret the specific treatment, we should note that Sloan has portrayed the hairdresser in the act of painting. Certainly, she holds a brushlike applicator in her right hand as she applies pigment to the hair. Further, the container held in the assistant's outstretched hand is reminiscent of a jar or pot of paint. It may very well be that Sloan wanted to call attention to this activity, since the pigment he used to depict both the brush and the jar is the brightest tone in the painting, a stark white that looks to have come straight from the tube (in contrast to the hairdresser's smock, which is a darker grayish white).
Hairdresser's Window is, then, a painting about the act of painting. The hairdresser served Sloan as a low or popular analogue to his own artistic pursuit, since he and she are doing much the same thing: applying colored pigments with a brush. His self-conscious employment of this motif may have even registered in his first mention of the scene in his diary, where, as noted, he described the "bleached blond hair dresser bleaching the hair of a client." There's an odd repetition and involution in his phrasing, with its combination of "bleached" and "bleaching," which suggest that the hairdresser is what she's doing. Sloan's choice of language is in keeping with his self-reflexive use of the motif. It also underscores how hair coloring may serve as an important bearer of meaning in the picture, in that it may comment on the painter's similar attentiveness to color. Just as, to some extent, he conflated the surface of the canvas and the surface of the hand-lettered signs, he has done something similar with the hairdresser's hair, inasmuch as her hair color and that of the lettering on several of the signs around her window are virtually identical. This is not the only instance in which he harmonized color in such a way. The three hanging swatches of hair just to the right of the window evince a similar inclination to harmonize color. These are likely meant to be read as an advertisement, a demonstration of the hairdresser's skill at coloring, altilough they can be interpreted in other ways as well. For one, the swatches, particularly the blonde one, which bears traces of dark streaks of pigment, look like nothing more than the thick, looping paint strokes they are. In addition, the grouping roughly corresponds to the hair coloring of the three figures in the window.13
The act of coloring hair is a fitting pictorial motif for signifying the craft of painting, not only on account of the resonances already pointed out but also because the painter's primary tool is basically a stick with a clump of (animal) hair attached - a clump much like those hanging from the line. It's not surprising that at this stage of his career Sloan might have produced a picture that focused on an occupation that involved the application of painted color, since his deepening involvement with the medium of painting represented something of a departure from his earlier commercial work. While it is true that he had produced illustrations in color, most notably his Sunday picture puzzles for the Philadelphia Press, his illustration work was nonetheless primarily in blackand-white, as were the etchings he had produced regularly since the very beginning of his career. His growing identification as a painter around this time likely encouraged him to engage more consistently with the artistic uses, and broader cultural resonances, of color.
Considering the meanings that Sloan located in the figure of the hairdresser, his inclusion of what seems to be her name, on that sign at upper left, is worthy of furdier scrutiny. As we have seen, he likely derived it from the name of an actual hairdresser who practiced her craft in a shop on Sixth Avenue, a stretch that he frequented in his walks in the city. Already, the change from "Malcolm" to "Malcomb" demonstrates that he did not feel obligated to have his renderings conform to every observed detail of the urban scene. The homophonic shift also demonstrates a propensity for playing with textual meaning, a habit that accords with his extensive experience creating word puzzles for the newspaper. The modified name can be taken as a pun, since its combination of the root "mal-" or "bad" (as in malpractice or malformed) and "Comb" suggests that the hairdresser may not be the most skillful practitioner of her art. The etymology of that prefix, however, can also be taken in a different way: as derived from the German malen, to paint. Although he had never traveled abroad, Sloan, an avid reader, would no doubt have known of some variation of that term, perhaps Maler (painter) or Malerei (painting).14 Even without any knowledge of German, he would have known of the painterly implement called a maulstick or mahlstick, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "a light stick with a padded leather ball at one end, held by an artist in one hand as a support for the hand used for painting."15 Some turn-of-the-century dictionaries list "malstick" as an alternative spelling of the word.'16 "Madam PaintComb" would be the perfect appellation for the hairdresser, considering how she brings together hairdressing and painting.17
In light of all diese accumulated resonances between the hairdresser and the act of painting. Hairdresser's Window can be taken as Sloan's self-conscious twist on an age-old motifthat is to say, as a modern allegory of painting. According to Mary Garrard, "Pittura, or the allegorical representation of the art of painting as a female figure, made her appearance in Italian art sometime in the first half of the sixteenth century, along with the equally new female personifications of sculpture and architecture. ..." One of the earliest such instances, which Garrard identifies in a 1542 mural painted by Giorgio Vasari in his Arezzo house, was followed by numerous treatments by succeeding generations of painters in Italy and elsewhere. Many of these pictures adopted the same basic format, with a female figure seen from the side as she renders a painted image, as in a mid-seventeenth-century treatment by the Dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst (Fig. 7). Even were Sloan not aware of such an earlier rendering of the motif, he would likely have known of examples made closer to his own time, such as the figure in Kenyon Cox's 1887 Painting and Poetry, which had been displayed at the epochal World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, or an engraving after the French academic painter Charles Chaplin's The Genius of Painting which accompanied an 1893 article on the Paris Salon in Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly (Fig. 8).19 These latter examples attest to the theme's endurance even into the last years of the nineteenth century, as well as to the musty, fussy classicism with which it was often treated, which an astute observer might Well have recognized could use some updating.
Hairdresser's Window presents Sloan's new (or, rather, modern) variation on an old theme.20 The female figure, seen from the side, a brush held in her right hand - these elements all correspond to the traditional treatment of the allegory of painting. The grouping of three figures (hairdresser, client, assistant) even repeats Honthorst's triad, with the hairdresser's assistant taking the place of the standing putto. But Sloan also changed the image significantly, particularly in terms of its setting. In earlier treatments, the figure tends to be physically isolated, usually in an interior space of some sort (likely meant to be read as, or as a corollary to, an artist's studio) or in an ethereal realm, as in the engraving after Chaplin. For Sloan, modernizing the motif meant not only adapting the painting figure to an utterly contemporary, common occupation but also expanding the picture's frame so that the subject is set within a larger urban street scene. This adds further meaning to the similarity noticed earlier, that the building facade, with its window surrounded by rectangular placards, recalls the traditional salon-style hanging of paintings. Hence, the larger scene evokes a crowd gathering to peer at a painted allegory on view at an exhibition. At the same time, Sloan has managed to forcefully pull the motif out of the realm of fine art, where it had for so long resided, and plunk it resolutely down into the hustle and bustle of the modern city, which was fast becoming a central theme of his art. In this way, his modern treatment represents something of a reversal of the intentions behind the initial Renaissance development of the motif. As Garrard points out, "only when the art of painting was understood to involve inspiration and to result in a higher order of creation than the craftsman's product did it become appropriate to symbolize the art with an allegorical figure."21 In other words, Pittura was a vehicle for (or symptom of) painters' efforts to define their work not as craft, as it had been largely characterized in the Middle Ages, but rather as one of the fine or liberal arts. In his version, Sloan has reestablished a link between painting and a type of contemporary manual craft. His modern reworking of the motif, then, accomplishes (at least) two things at once: it moves painting away from its elitist, academic associations, which can be seen as part of the broader program pursued by Sloan, Henri, and the other Ashcan school painters, and it also emphasizes the manual aspect of painting, which stands in contrast to modern industrial labor tied to machines. As our analysis develops, we would do well to keep in mind the latter point, since it offers one explanation for Sloan's veritable reversal of the theme. In the Renaissance, the manual aspects of painting stood to threaten the elevation of the medium to a higher cultural status. For Sloan, by contrast, those very aspects could well have been seen as something to be embraced, in part because they signaled a remove or distancing from the modern drive toward mechanization.
Another element in the picture further suggests that Sloan was self-consciously creating his own modern spin on the Pittura motif. Note the woman with the hat at lower right, who, along with several other onlookers, has stopped and turned to gaze up at the window. If the handling throughout the picture is loose and gestural, as was Sloan's wont at the time, the area of rendering that is arguably the loosest and most evident as paint qua paint is the ring of flowers that adorns the top of her hat, among the lightest and brightest tones iti the picture. The striated pink and white pigment that Sloan used to depict the flowers has been applied as if hastily dabbed onto the canvas. It looks fresher than any other area of the painted surface, suggesting it was among die last details added to the picture. These dabs of paint from a loaded brush stand out even more as they are seen against the dark tone of the hat. Considered in Ulis context, the hat's shape, a rough oval with a curved promision at the upper left edge, is noteworthy. With its ring of dabbed paint splotches, the hat's shape uncannily resembles yet another painter's tool: the palette on which paint is mixed, a standard element that regularly appeared in treatments of the allegory of painting. At the same time, Sloan set the hat directly in front of that hazily rendered figure of a woman under the sign "cow." The hat's placement in front of the figure's right arm and hand makes it look as if she could be holding the palette, much as a painter would. The almost centrifugal ejection of the palette from the scene of painting into the crowd could itself be seen as a visual metaphor for Sloan's forcing of the allegory of painting from a private, enclosed space (as it had traditionally been rendered) vigorously out into public space.
Sloan's contemporary urban interpretation of an allegorical figure shares affinity with the notion of the "real allegory" posited by Courbet. That term appeared in Courbet's subtide to his monumental 1855 canvas The Painter's Studio (Fig. 9), which, like Hairdresser's Window, shows a crowd assembled around a central figure caught in die act of painting (in Courbet's picture, that figure is none other than the artist himself). Courbet, who peopled his scene with myriad friends, contemporaries, and stock figures, can be said to have brought die crowd into die painter's studio, while for his part, Sloan opened the painter's studio out onto the space of the urban crowd.22 Courbet may have been a potent model for Sloan. The loose brushwork Sloan often employed echoes Courbet's emphasis on the materiality of paint. In both artists' work, a correlation between the coarse realism of dieir chosen subjects and the painterly techniques used to realize them can often be seen.23 That is not the only point of correspondence between the two, since both were deeply engaged with popular imager)', focused in their work on issues of class and labor, and exhibited strong political involvement. As to the last point, it may very well be that Courbet seived Sloan as an important example of a politically engaged artist, since one of Sloan's scrap books contains an 1884 magazine article titled "Gustave Courbet, Artist and Commun ist. "24 If the allegorical content of Sloan's own take on a "real -allegory" has been largely, if not entirely, overlooked, this may be the result of circumstances similar to those that at times greeted Courbet's work - namely, a larger problem of reception in which a work's vigorous embrace of an ostensibly realist paradigm is misinterpreted as betokening a related lack of density Ln its historical, theoretical, or pictorial references.
A reading of Hairdresser's Window as Sloan's modern version of the traditional allegory of painting helps us better understand his interest in the motif to begin with, as well as the picture's compelling visual power. Yet to read the picture solely in this way overly domesticates it, framing it within a rather narrow register, one that can be largely contained within the practice of iconography. It also distances Sloan from the image, and specifically from the figure of the hairdresser, relegating him to a long line of male artists who envisaged thé painter's practice in the guise of a female figure. Indeed, he may have had a stronger identification with her than such a reading would allow, as evidenced by an important etching he had produced the previous year, entitled Memory. That print was significant because it was something of an emotional gesture to his friend and mentor, Robert Henri, created after the untimely death of Henri's wife, Linda. It pictures an intimate evening shared by Robert and Linda Henri and John and Dolly Sloan, all of them gathered around a small table - a memory of a happier time, prior to Linda's passing. There is a distinct resemblance between the hairdresser and Sloan's self-portrait in the print (Fig. 10). Sporting eyeglasses, both figures tilt their heads down as they focus intently on their work. The positioning of their hands is also strikingly similar: in both eases the right hand, above, is curled in, with an implement grasped between thumb and forefinger, while the left hand, positioned below and slightly to the right, is brought in to steady the work at hand, whether holding a lock of the client's hair or securing a sheet of paper on a drawing board. Both figures are cropped in much the same way, along the shoulder or back, as if the window frame in Hairdresser's Window approximated the framing edge of the earlier print.29
An undated sketch for Hairdresser's Window makes the physical resemblance between the hairdresser and Sloart - or, more precisely, between the hairdresser and Sloan's depiction (s) of himself - even more evident.26 A comparison of the hairdresser's facial features in that sketch with two other self-depictions by Sloan, one from a 1906 word-puzzle panel, the other from an undated letter to Henri (from about 1906) (Fig. 11), further underscores die resemblance: each displays eyeglasses, a knoblike nose, and pursed mouth.2' Beyond the sheer physical resemblance, they are connected also by the primary architectural motif of Hairdresser's Window. On more than one occasion, Sloan represented himself, too, as viewed through a window. In a 1912 letter to Henri, he related his move to a new studio with a sketch of himself leaning out of a window in a tall building diat looms over its neighbors.28 Even closer to the feel of Hairdresser's Window is a small, undated sketch tided Four of the Eight (Fig. 12). The sketch shows three figures in the foreground who have been identified, from left to right, as Henri, George Luks, and Maurice Prendergast· - all members of the Eight.29 Tiny in comparison to his compatriots, Sloan leans out of a window in the background, a brush (or brushes) grasped in his hand - his selfimaging here offering another set of correspondences between him and the hairdresser.30
I'm not sure I would go so far as to say that the hairdresser is a cross-dressed self-portrait, but one could say diat at the very least she is a feminized pictorial surrogate for Sloan. Then again, Sloan was no stranger to dressing up in women's clothes. In the amateur theatricals he, Henri, and their friends had staged in Philadelphia in the 1890s, Sloan seems to have invariably played a female character. Photographs of him posing in character reveal him fully inhabiting die role, not only wearing women's clothing but also sporting makeup and striking the requisite poses, such as hand on chest or eyes raised in stereotypically (for the period) feminine - and melodramatic - fashion (Fig. 13). Even if Sloan may have identified on some level with the painting's centra] protagonist, another aspect of Hairdresser's Window suggests that on some level this identification was also being canceled out. At the upper left of the composition, he painted a gridlike pattern of shadows composed of a long horizontal band surmounted by a series of short, roughly vertical lines. It may plausibly be read as the shadow cast by a fire escape, with its parallel bars or slats, direcdy above. As Sloan has rendered it. however, the horizontal band runs direcdy over the word "madam" on the sign, effectively - and conspicuously - crossing out the textual signifier of femininity.31
Hairdresser's Window is a complex meditation on art. It repeatedly invokes the act of painting, and it does so in order to relate it not to the cloistered space of the artist's studio, but rather to the workaday world of hair coloring, hand-lettered advertising signs, and women's apparel. As such, it envisions painting as a profoundly public activity. Sloan's picture conjures a scene in which the act of painting has managed, at least for a moment, to draw a crowd's attention away from the husde and busde of urban spectacle diat had come to define the viewer's experience in the new century.
Painting in the Crowd
Several montiis after painting Hairdresser's Window, Sloan executed a canvas entitled Election Night (Fig. 14). On November 5, he recorded the following scenes in his diary:
After dinner I went out again and saw the noisy trumpet blowers, confetti throwers and the "ticklers" in use- -a small feather duster on a stick which is pushed in the face of each girl by the men, and in the face of men by the girls. A good humored crowd, so dense in places that it was impossible to control one's movement. A big election bonfire on Seventh Ave. with a policeman trying to keep its creators from adding fuel. They would creep thro' the dense crowd, and when he was busy, over the heads a barrel or box would sail, into the flames; and a shout of ridicule would meet the policeman's angry efforts to get at the culprit stoker.32
A week later he went to work on a painting based on these scenes, which he was said to have completed in just one day.33 Despite the apparent reportorial quality of the picture, Sloan did not set up his easel in the very center of that thronging crowd in order to capture it. It was based, rather, on his memories (selective, revised) of the event, hence his use of the term "memory painting" to identify works like this one.34 The length of time that elapsed between the episode and Sloan's depiction of it can be contrasted with the speed of his execution - only a single day to complete a rather complex canvas filled with figures. 35
Sloan's paint handling is in keeping with the work's subject, as if the fugitive and ephemeral experience of modernity - the movement and energy of the crowd, the night lit up as if in daytime, the city crowding in around us - could only be captured by a brush wielded with an equivalent sense of immediacy. The scene in Election Night is consistent with the first lines of Sloan's diary entry, with his description of a "dense" and "good humored" crowd blaring horns and throwing confetti. The packed throng of bothes fills the picture from one edge to the other, with the faces of the assembled men and women conveying their raucous energy, excitement, and delight. The only evident indication of the gatiiermg's ostensible purpose is visible at left: a screen onto which news and election returns are projected by lantern slide. This was a common election-night event in Broadway's Herald Square, which was named after the New York Herald newspaper, on the side of whose building the projected image appears.36
Although election-night festivities take center stage in the scene, Sloan included within it a surrogate who embodies the act of painting, one that is clearly connected to the figure of the hairdresser in Hairdresser's Window. The roiling, interwoven mass of bodies in the crowd, registering as an anonymous, inseparable mass, generally discourages us from picking out individual figures. Nevertheless, we should direct our attention to the derby-hatted man with his back turned to us who is positioned in the right foreground, just behind the boy blowing his horn (Fig. 15). For the most part, he's an anonymous figure: his face is not visible and his dark clothing tends to blend in with the rest of the scene. Yet his pose and pictorial orientation, along with the implement he holds, convey an unmistakable impression. In his right hand he grasps what Sloan referred to in his diary as a "tickler," a stick with feathers attached to one end. These were items commonly found at public festivities, employed by both women and men for quasi-erotic, teasing social play. As depicted here, however, the tickler could be taken for a paintbrush: both, after all, are long rods with flexible bristles or feathers attached to one end, meant to be held in the hand. When viewed in this light, the figure's pose looks unmistakably like that of a painter at work, seen from behind, his arm extended as if laying down a stroke. The loose strokes that make up the face of the (blonde) woman, appearing just below his hand, only reinforce this effect, since it looks almost as if he's in the process of painting her into the scene. His long, cloaklike garment, further, bears a significant resemblance to a painter's smock.37
One contemporary account of Mardi Gras on Coney Island underscored the correspondence between tickler and paintbrush in observing how M[s]ome people as they pass a frankfurter stand, politely dip their tickler into the mustard jar and then tickle people under the nose with it."38 The tickler is, further, not the only item that can be interpreted in relation *to Sloan's incorporation of a painter surrogate into the scene. His diary also reports the celebratory use of hornlike trumpets and confetti, and the way he rendered these conveys that they may also stand in for the varied technical effects of painting, since each is achieved by a different method of paint application: the confetti by short dots applied with the tip of the brush (a kind of pointiHist effect), and the horns by several long, converging strokes.
The man with the tickler-brush has something of a twin: a similar figure at left who also faces into the depicted space of the painting. The back and shoulders of his coat are scattered with stippled dots of confetti. (The tmvariegated expanse of that coat also serves as the backdrop for a batch of ticklers proffered by a hawker standing at the far left.) Significantly, the twin grasps something in his right hand, not a tickler but a horn. The pairing of the two figures, one on either side of the canvas, suggests that Sloan is cleverly playing with signs of spatial illusion. In contrast to the tickler, which is directed into the depicted space, the horn protrudes outward. This also introduces an erotic elemenL since the positioning of the horn, directly in line with the crotch of the male figure just to the right, makes its phallic associations quite clear. (This is evident as well in the way the horn nestles against the buttocks of the woman in red.)
Figures turned away from us and into the space of the picture have a long history in Western painting.39 They offer a connection, again, between Sloan and Courbet, inasmuch as Michael Fried has drawn our attention to the appearance in Courbet's work of similar figures, which he includes within a larger category of what he calls "painter-beholders." Fried finds correspondences between figures and objects in Courbet's paintings and the bodily gestures and tools used to create them.40 If Sloan's pictures signal a similar preoccupation with the act of painting, his emphasis nevertheless diverges significantly from Courbet's, which Fried sees as largely intuitive and focused on the embodied experience of the painter. Sloan's painter surrogates (the hairdresser, the man with the tickler-brush) are much more literal stand-ins for the painter, and thus seem more self-consciously chosen; their insertion into urban settings is clearly central to their meaning as well.
Not only did Sloan include a painter surrogate in Election Night, but he also made that figuré an integral and central part of the celebratory activity on display, since he is completely enveloped by the raucous crowd. Many of the figures in the crowd are so loosely delineated that they dissolve into the swirls and eddies of Sloan's brushstrokes, some of which were laid down so quickly diat there are visible striations in the paint surface where earlier layers of pigment show through. The picture stages a conjuring act: the energy and vitality of the crowd are made equivalent to the immediacy of the painter's gesture, and vice versa.
This was not the first time that Sloan aligned painting with such energetic displays of public celebration, events that highlighted eroticized interactions between men and women. In ne Picnic Grounds (1906-7, Fig. 16), he portrayed groups of people engaged in relaxed sociability in a wooded setting, including a man frolicking with three women in the foreground.41 The scene had originated in a Decoration Day outing to Bayonne, New Jersey, where Sloan's former Philadelphia Press colleague Frank Crane lived. As Sloan wrote in his diary, "A walk to the shore with its yachts and boats launched now. Then we went to the Newark bay side and watched picnic grounds, dancing pavilion, young girls of the healdiy lusty type with white caps jauntily perched on their heads."42 A few days later he painted a version of the scene from memory, as was his custom. Rowland Elzea, in his catalogue raisonné of Sloan's paintings, identified the work as an important transitional point in the artist's career: "His shift in focus from thé architectural settings of his earlier city subjects to the relationships between people in this canvas marks the beginnings of Sloan's work as active genre painter."43 In its treatment of the new types of social interaction available to the massés in the expanding leisure realm of the contemporary city and its environs, The Picnic Grounds tiius paved the way for pictures like Hairdresser's Windoxu and Election Night.
The foregrounding of the practice of painting is not embothed in The Picnic Grounds by the figures at play. Rather, it is expressed by their surroundings, specifically, those whitewashed tree trunks (and several whitewashed rocks) studded throughout the scene. Whitewashing is, of course, a form of painting. Altfiough the figures are the ostensible subjects of the scene, Sloan has given the tree trunks significant visual emphasis. They constitute a series of strong, vertical (or almost vertical) forms that fill the composition from edge to edge, with some reaching from almost the very bottom of the picture to its top. The termination of the whitewashing about two-thirds of the way up the trunks, which one could take as merely a veristic touch, effectively calls attention to their paintedness - to the imposition of the human hand on the natural world. When Sloan laid down the thick white strokes that describe tiiose painted trunks, he was reiterating the labor of the whitewasher, much as his lettering on the signs in Hairdresser's Window repeated the work of the sign painter. His loose, gestural paint handling, which makes evident the strokes of pigment deposited on the canvas surface (look, for instance, at the bottom of the tree in the left foreground), only accentuates this reading. Again, Sloan correlates his work not with the easel and the artist's studio but with painting understood and experienced as a mundane, workaday activity.
Even tiiough this scene lacks a figurai surrogate for the painter, it nonetheless implies the work shown in two illustrations that accompanied a 1910 newspaper article that cautioned readers against the common practice of plastering the trunks of a tree with lime (Fig. IT):.45 (The arrangement of the trees in the second illustration is particularly reminiscent of Sloan's treatment of the motif.) Focusing on agricultural and horticultural concerns, the article's author noted that trees were often whitewashed following the (erroneous) assumption that the lime used in the preparation would kill insects on contact or prevent them from climbing up the trunk. Sloan, for his part, had a different understanding of this practice, which he put forward years later in a comment on the picture: "The white washed tree trunks were a device used to enable visitors to stroll about at night - when the grounds were used by numbers of guests."46 For Sloan, then, the whitewashing of the trees gave visitors the opportunity to enjoy the picnic grounds after dark; creating some reflective illumination, it allowed people to see their surroundings at night. Thus understood, tile whitewashing seen in The Picnic Grounds enabled the activities pictured there to continue into the night.
Sloan's account underscores what connects 7'Ai? Picnic Grounds and Election Night. In both pictures, painting is figured or imagined as the vehicle for lively social interactions between men and women in public, aspects of the new leisure activities of the modern metropolis. The two pictures also have similar compositional structures: each contains a division that stretches across the composition, established in The Picnic Grounds by the upper edges of whitewashing on the trunks and in Election. Night by the heads of the assembled figures. In the latter case the division is thematic as well as formal. There are no figures above that dividing line save for a hansom cab driver who is visible plying his trade above the crowd. This lone human figure, emblematic of a mode of urban transportation that had become popular in the nineteenth century, is a foil for the iionhuman emblems of modernity that dominate the upper half of the composition: the tall buildings that crowd the scene; the elevated train that rushes past; thé various types of artificial illumination; and the projected image of the lantern slide. This last element calls attention tò a Curious aspect of the scene. Although the election returns provided the ostensible motivation for the gathering, none of the figures in the throng seems to pay any attention to themi caught up as they are in their shared frivolity. It is instructive to compare Sloan's painting with roughly contemporary photographs of election-night gatherings in New York City (Figs. 18, 19). In both of these photographs, large crowds - all-male, by the looks of it - gather to view the election returns. These appear to be orderly, almost sedate gatherings, with plenty of policemen in attendance to control the crowds. And in both cases, virtually all heads are turned in the same direction, trained on the projected returns. (The second image reproduced here captures the same locale as Sloan's Election Night two years later, although the view is from the New York Herald building looking down at the crowd and the projection booth in the square below.)
Is Sloan offering, in Election Night, some political commentary, of the "bread and circuses" variety - that the masses, indulging in playful celebration, ignore the political matters at hand? If this is the case, the commentary is not very strong. With no national races, and none for any major seat like the governorship, the 1907 election in New York City lacked excitement One newspaper headline characterized that election season as "dull" while another article noted that "there is no real live public interest in the campaign as a whole."47 The highest-profile race may have been for New York City sheriff. Yes, there were some cries of fraud against the Tammany Hall machine (the Tammany ticket won a sweeping victory, including the sheriffs race), but these were somewhat inevitable by this point and did not garner a great deal of notice.48
Perhaps, then, what is at stake in Sloan's depiction is the status and activity of the crowd itself. A newspaper story about that 1907 election night in Herald Square is useful to consider in this respect:
At Herald Square and in front of the Brooklyn Eagle office in Twenty-third Street large crowds watched the bulletins, but the spectators watched silently and without much show of enthusiasm. Herald Square was filled with a holiday throng, and resounded to the blare of horns. Young men and girls, armed with feather dusters which they poked in the faces of any good natured looking person whom they passed, moved about beneath the rays of the searchlight in the Madison Square Tower.49
This account sets up an important distinction: there is one type of crowd characterized by celebratory revelry, youthful energy, and sensual pleasure (a crowd consonant with Sloan's painting), while there is another, coexistent crowd that expresses a much different sensibility, one that is orderly and silent as it watches the returns projected by lantern slide (in line with the news-service photographs).
These were, further, not the only ways such urban crowds were experienced by contemporary observers, for the specter of the mob, in which the crowd turned toward chaos and violence, was always present as well. This was true for any such mass gathering, but it was also understood specifically as an election-night threat. For instance, a New York Times editorial response to the public celebration that attended election night in 1906 remarked on the growing tendency for the ostensible purpose of the evening - watching the returns - to be overshadowed by a general atmosphere of "noise and hilarity."50 The piece commented that, although the behavior of the crowds was generally within acceptable and proper limits,
[i]t was plain . . . that here and there in the crowds were groups of men and boys who were not content with mere fun, even with the word strained well toward its limits of elasticity', but had crudely organized for actual assault and rioting of a kind that has been almost unknown in the past, and certainly should not be allowed in the future. ... At several places Tuesday evening the police did not act with sufficient promptness when the privileges of license were abused and the consequence was that they found themselves not engaged in suppressing disorder, but in rather fierce conflict with those whose idea of amusement was to tear clotiiing to pieces and to inflict bodily injury of considerable seriousness. There was real danger in some of the rushes til us produced, and it must be remembered that a great crowd always presents the horrible possibilities of a mad panic.51
The threat of violence by election-night throngs became an artistic subject as well, as evident in Election Night, Times Square, a drawing by George Bellows, another member of the Ashcan school (ca. 1906; Fig. 20). The setting of Bellows's scene is not too far removed from that of Sloan's Election Night, as Times Square is roughly ten city blocks away from Herald Square. On the level of subject matter, these images share a good deal: both convey the frenzied energy of urban crowds gathered to mark a public occasion, and they document the contemporary practice of projecting election returns (Bellows shows us not only the circular projection on the side of a building, probably the New York Times Building itself, but also the raised booth that housed the projection apparatus). Yet, in the end, these are very durèrent images, and the sentiments they express are worlds apart.
The difference in medium, Bellows's black-and-white drawing contrasted with Sloan's painting, is partly responsible for the distinction. Further, in Bellows's approach, form and content intertwine, as the crowd dissolves, at various points, into a dark, undifferentiated mass. This is in keeping with the general behavior of the depicted crowd, which is engaged not in joyous celebration but in violent, disruptive action. So much is clear from the numerous fistfights that have broken out, and from the disturbing vignette of the woman to the right of center, who grasps desperately at a lamppost so as not to be torn away by the man who has grabbed her. Considering the general tone of physical violence and chaotic activity, the point of view employed by Bellows is significant. We are not in the crowd but somewhat above it, looking down, and at some physical remove as well. This viewpoint separates us from the mass, giving us a sense that we're detached observers of the scene. Adopting this point of view may have been a way for Bellows to somewhat allay the viewer's anxiety, as it exposes the crowd's potential for mayhem while at the same time distancing us from it. Sloan's depiction could not be more different. Although the disposition of the foreground figures in Election Night evinces something of a scenic quality, we are plopped down in the middle of the action, on basically the same level as those figures. And while the crowd certainly exudes a raucous energy, there is none of the violence and fear elicited by Bellows's treatment, as is made evident by the participants' joyful, laughing expressions. To me, this aspect of Sloan's imagery is most clearly conveyed by a term proposed by the critic Robert Hughes: urban pastoral.52 This term effectively convej's the sense of veritable contradiction at work in many of Sloan's images, which, aldiough they are set in the modern city, evoke a carefree, bucolic feeling, with groups of people engaging in shared pleasures and diversions.
The pictorial structure of Election Night, in which the depicted space is separated into two registers, underscores this aspect of Sloan's approach. Above, we find emblems of a modern world in which social experience is organized and controlled: the train that brings travelers from one place to another along a fixed and predetermined route; the lighting that extends the human capacity for work and commercial activity into the nighttime hours; and the projected image that provides entertainment to the assembled crowd. Below, by contrast, we find a swirling, teeming, and relatively undifferentiated mass of bothes, celebrating the human experience of communal pleasure. None of the modern contrivances that fill, and even define, the upper register can be seen in the lower half or so of the painting. The only thing that dates the crowd are the fashions worn. Were it not for their clodiing, the figures could represent a veritably timeless scene of carnivalesque celebration, something akin, for instance, to one of Pie ter Bruegel's peasant scenes, or to a bacchanal by Titian or Nicolas Poussin.""5 In practice, one could never actually separate these two realms of experience, but Sloan managed to do so in pictorial terms, through compositional structuring. In turn, he strategically linked the art of painting to this urban pastoral and the values it epitomized, perhaps in part because painting was a medium with a long (that is, premodern) history, dating back to the time when it was considered manual labor and handicraft. This, in turn, required yet another move: drawing a distinction between painted images and those produced by mechanical means.
The Painted Picture, tile Mechanically Reproduced Image, and the Crowd
In 1907, the presentation of election returns by lantern slide was not a new development. The practice may date to as early as the 1870s.54 An 1896 illustration in Harper's Weekly conveys how, by the last decade of the nineteenth century, this practice had become the focus of an elaborate public spectacle that drew large urban crowds. By Sloan's time, then, such projections, and the crowds they attracted, had been a fixture of election-night festivities for some time. As noted, the New York Herald was certainly not the only host of such festivities. In 1906 the New Yoik Times trumpeted its own accommodations, including a platform in front of its building for a band, a large white canvas used as a projection screen, and even a "huge music machine," all of which contributed to a truly "festival spirit."53 Not restricted to projecting returns, the screens also displayed pictures of politicians ("Hughes and Hearst and Roosevelt and others"), as well as imagery even further afield: "In the early hours of the evening, before the election's returns were coming fast, the times's picture men threw on the canvas sheet representations of scenes in Ceylon, scenes in New York, and scenes nearly everywhere else, including Brooklyn, and the crowds cheered impartially."51' Such journalistic descriptions of urban crowds watching projected images accompanied by music could as easily be referring to an emergent popular medium of the time - the moving-picture show.
Katherine Manthorne has pointed out the relation between the projected lantern-slide election returns in Election Night and the moving-picture screen, which represented a new mode of entertainment that was growing in influence and undergoing various transformations in the first decade of the twentieth century.37 She notes that in some instances election results were shown along with short moving pictures, and partly for this reason she proposes a connection between Election Night and another 1907 painting by Sloan, Movies, Five Cents (Fig. 21). Here, an audience watches a movie on a screen at upper left, in the same general area of the composition as the screen in Election Night. Manthome's broader argument - that Sloan's imagery "shares constitutive strategies with the movies"38 - holds true in a general sense. Sloan was a regular moviegoer, and the relatively new cinematic medium no doubt had a substantial impact on the visual experience of both artists and viewers at the time.59 Nevertheless, the evidence strongly suggests that he saw his own art, particularly his painting, not as consonant with the cinematic experience, but rather opposed or at least offering an alternative to it in varied and important ways. This, in turn, provides a broader context for considering his depiction of painter surrogates.
Besides the location of the screens in the same general area in both Election Night and Movies, Five Cents, there are other telling similarities between the two works.60 The paintings share similar compositional structures, each divided into two registers or zones delineated by the tops of the heads of the assembled figures, which describe a rough diagonal diat ascends from left to right (in Movies, Five Cents the slope is more pronounced, in large part because of the standing figures at right). The thrusting diagonal of the elevated train tracks in Election Night, which draws the viewer's eye toward the screen on the facade of the New York Herald Building, is echoed in thé earlier canvas by the faint traces of the light beams Cast by the projector (evoking a parallel between the projector's beam and the train's unseen headlights). As in Election Night, the upper zone of Movies, Five Cents is defined by the presence of nonhuman, mechanical contrivances: the projected image, the lighted exit sign, the electric fan, and the glowing bulb at right. Of these, the fan stands out, since as a mechanical device it reiterates the unseen projector, its whining blades resembling both the spinning spools and the spinning shutter mechanism inside the lens. At the same time, its breeze counters the directionality of the projected image.
As with Election Night, in Movies, Five Cents this nònhuman, mechanized zone above is contrasted with the realm of the human crowd below. In spite of this and other similarities, there are important, meaningful differences between the two pictures, Aldiough Sloan tended to set his urban scenes of this period out-of-doors, Movies, Five Cents takes place in an interior, one might even say confining, space. The screen in Election Night contains text, while that in Movies, Five Cents bears an image- a man and woman locked in an embrace, which was referred to in movie parlance at the time as "the Clinch."1'1 These are, further, two very different types of urban crowds: the almost bacchanalian excess of the electionnight scene contrasts with the regularity and order of the rows of seated movie-house patrons, who are absorbed in and dius kept controlled and pacified by tile new modern spectacle before them. Looked at in this way, one is almost tempted to view the two paintings as pendants, in that they seem to offer two divergent views of the urban masses, both of which were described in the 1907 newspaper account of election night.
Movies, Five Cents is, however, a more complex image than such a reading would allow. Certainly, a good portion of the audience, notably those in the first several rows of the theater, appears to be absorbed by the projected image, yet the theater's back rows contain numerous figures who look away or ignore it. There is the couple just shuffling in; a man at the far right of the picture with his hand completely covering his face and eye, as if hiding or refusing the signs of vision; and the man in the foreground who is completely slumped over, asleep or drunk. Perhaps most noteworthy is the woman with streamers on her hat, who, in looking away from the movie, turns to peer back at us, catching us in her gaze. She is positioned almost at the very center of the composition, a placement diat emphasizes her presence as well as the significance of her action. Her act of turning toward us results in two interconnected, complementary ends: just as she herself resists being absorbed by the depicted movie image,, so she shatters our experience of tire painted image's illusion of enclosure, making us self-conscious of our own activity as viewers, hi other words, it is only by turning away from the movie that she sees herself being looked at, and that we find ourselves caught in the act of looking as well.
One message that we can take from Movies, Five Cents, then, is that painting may give access to, or even encourage, a type of spectatorial self-consciousness that is less available (or perhaps not present at all) in the experience of watching a movie. This would tend to contradict Manthorne's reading, which repeatedly conflates Sloan's painterly approach with the techniques of the filmic medium. As one piece of her argument, Manthorne points out the elaborate frame, much like that of a painting, that surrounds the projected image in Sloan's picture. This was a common feature in early movie theaters, one diat, as she explains, "reinforced the linkage between painted and projected images. . . ."b2 Yet a comparison between Movies, Five Cents and an undated sketch by Sloan (Fig. 22), likely a preparatory drawing for the painting, only bolsters the sense that he was trying to create a clear distinction between the two mediums. In the drawing, he positions the movie screen parallel to the picture plane, thus effectively conflating the two, as Mantiiorne observes. Moreover, this places us as viewers in the midst of the audience, further strengthening the connection between watching a movie and looking at a painting. In the end, though, Sloan chose not to structure his canvas in this way. In the painting, he shifted the viewer's position so it is almost perpendicular to the rows of seats. He also cropped the screen, which had been presented whole in the drawing. These changes serve to estrange us not only from the projected image but also from the audience: the point of view adopted in the painting does not make us feel as if we are part of that group of spectators but, rather, diat we are observing them, a sense underscored by the woman who turns to look at us as if we are interrupting or intruding in some way. This contrasts with Election Night, in which we are made to feel that we are, for the most part, within and part of the crowd - a crowd that, significandy, pays no attention to the projected image above it.
Sloan had, in fact, registered a distaste for film early on. in an unsigned note published in the literary magazine the Chap-Book in 1896, more than a decade before he painted Movies, Five Cents, he had railed against the relatively new medium of the projected film, which he characterized as "a pretty toy for that great child, the public."03 He was particularly offended by a specific moving picture, a filmed close-up of a kiss from a popular musical comedy of the time. As he wrote:
In a recent play called Tlie Widow Jones you may remember a famous kiss which Miss May Irwin bestowed on a certain John C. Rice, and vice versa. Neither participant is physically attractive, and the spectacle of their prolonged pasturing on each other's lips was hard to bear. When only life-size it was pronouncedly beastly. But that was nothing to the present sight. Magnified to Gargantuan proportions and repeated three times over it is absolutely disgusting. All delicacy or remnant of charm seems gone from Miss Irwin, and the performance comes ver)' near being indecent in its emphasized vulgarity.04
Sloan's description of the film being "repeated three times over" refers to the common practice at the time of showing these sorts of short loops several times over in rapid succession.1'3 He based his objection to the moving picture, and to this film in particular, on a number of different issues: the repetition of ostensibly vulgar images; the large size of the projection; and the way that this new medium infantilized its audience (as indicated by his reference to it as a "toy" and to the public as "that great child"). The publication in which his comments appeared was itself meaningful. As Wendy Clauson Schlereth notes,
One of the chief visual characteristics of The. Chap-Book was ... its identification with the fine art of early printing. . . . Looking backwards to the fine craftsmanship of artisans in a premechanized society, the magazine chose woodcuts, black and white drawings, elaborate border designs and handmade, uncut paper to create the impression that it belonged more to the printing traditions of the past than those of the present.1'''
In other words, Sloan conspicuously launched his attack on a new technological image medium in the pages of a publication that self-consciously looked back to the past through the celebration of much longer-lived, artisanal values.
It would not be unreasonable to assume that Sloan's attitude toward moving pictures shifted in the decade or so that separated his published attack and his execution of Movies, Five Cents, in large part because the medium and its public reception underwent substantial changes during that period, which saw it being popularized and widely disseminated. Nancy Mowll Mathews asserts unequivocally that during that period of time "Sloan changed his mind about many of his objections" and maintains that by 1905 "he was celebrating the 'vulgarity' of kinetoscope moving pictures in his etching Fun, One Cent, and painting an image of a kiss onto the screen in Movies, Five Cents (1907)."*'7 One can plausibly take issue with Mathews's conclusions, however. The available evidence in Sloan's work suggests that even had his opinions shifted, he nonetheless was attempting to set up an opposition or contrast between the relatively new medium of the moving pictures and the much longer-lived, artisanal tradition of painting.68 To cite just one example, it's significant that he chose, in Movies, Five Cents, to include on the movie screen an amorous embrace so reminiscent of the one he had railed against years earlier.69
That Sloan may have retained some of the skepticism or even hostility7 expressed in his Chap-Born piece is evident it' we consider how Movies, Five Cents and Election Night offer competing views of the relation between the physicality of the crowd and the projected image. In Election Night, the general inattentiveness to the projected lantern-slide image is either a product of, or results in, that quasi bacchanalian, festive celebration (within which, just to reiterate, Sloan has placed a surrogate for the painter). In contrast, in Movies, Five Cents the erotic has literally been projected onto (or into) the screened image. And the audience members, whether engrossed in the film or inattentive to it, manifest little of the energy and physical activity so much in evidence in Sloan's election-night crowd. In contrast to the joyful play of the crowd in Election Night (and in The Picnic Grounds, for that matter), this crowd displays scant or no physical and social interaction. Aside from the few people shuffling in to find their seats and the woman who turns to look at us, the audience, arrayed in regimented rows, is largely passive.
That Sloan was sell-consciously exploring the relation between the painted and the mechanically reproduced image, and the crowd's differing relation to both, is demonstrated by a small drawing he made at this time (Fig, 23) . In this loosely rendered sketch, composed primarily of hastily scribbled ink lines, a crowd of bystanders gazes up at a man on a ladder at work. Although a notation at the bottom of the sheet, added later by Sloan or by his second wife, Helen, dates the drawing to 1908, it is much more likely, considering both its subject matter and its similarity to other pictures by Sloan, that it was actually executed in 1907.7" The depiction of an urban crowd or audience with an image in the upper left repeats the general compositional structures of Election Night and Movies, Five Cents, while the scene of a mass of bystanders looking up toward a building's secorïd story evokes the setting of Hairdresser's Window. All of those paintings were made in 1907. The motif is also in keeping with the array of city-life subjects Sloan tackled throughout diat year, in the period leading up to the inaugural show of the Eight. But there is an even more specific element diat connects this sketch with some of the key paintings of 1907, namely, the figure of the man at work. Although Man thorn e has identified him as, a billboard painter in the process of sketching an image, it's more likely diat he's a bill poster, a figure who would have been utterly familiar to the turn-of-the-century viewer (in which case, the sketch should probably be reti tied Spectators Watching a Bill Poster). 7] An 1897 illustration from a Chicago Daily Tribune article on the evolution and, growth of the bill-posting business shows a figure much like the one in Sloan's sketch: the arm extended in work, the long, broomlike brush (which was used both to apply paste and to smooth the printed bill into place), and even the bowlerlike hat (Fig. 24). Although we might not expect a crowd to form and be transfixed by the .seemingly mundane act of pasting up a printed poster, the Tribune reporter described a strikingly similar scene when he tagged along on a trip with a crew of Chicago bill posters:
The skilled bill-poster is an interesting object. There was soon quite an audience to witness the men at work. It was composed of all classes. The people stood gaping at the spectacle until the big board had a new dress, placidly content to see the cocoa man eclipsed by the advertisement of a new corset and the heroine of the melodrama decently covered with a brand new discovery in liver pads, notwithstanding it was 7 o'clock on a raw morning.72
Further insight is provided by a set of caricatures that accompanied an 1896 Tribune piece on a meeting of the Inter-State Bill-Posters' Protective Association (Fig. 25 ). The caricature on the lower left, of the group's secretary, Clarence E. Runey, furnishes yet another example of a bill poster with his signature long, broomlike brush, strengthening our identification of the man in Sloan's sketch. The second caricauire, of H. F. Schäfer, also a group member, helps to further illuminate why the figure of the bill poster might have been of interest to Sloan at this time. Clasping a paste pot in one hand and wielding a brush in the other, he looks unmistakably like yet another stand-in for the painter.
Sloan's sketch, then, yields further evidence (if any more is needed) that at this time he was self-consciously searching for surrogates for the painter in common professions and pursuits. The bill poster, who creates (or, more accurately, affixes) an image with a brushlike implement, takes his place alongside the hairdresser, the whitewasher, and the ticklerwielding man in the crowd. The sketch also contains an intriguing visual repetition, in that the bill poster seems to be doubled by the right-hand figure in the bill he's pasting up, both of them wearing similar hats and positioned with virtually the same outstretched left arm.7'1 We have seen how Sloan's hairdresser may have embodied a similar sort of self-re flexivity. Considering how well this image would have fit in with the other painter surrogates Sloan was tackling at the time, one might be led to wonder: Why, then, didn't he turn the sketch into a painting? Of course, it's difficult (if not impossible) to determine why an artist may have chosen not to develop a particular motif into a finished work. But in this case, in light of the evidence from other pictures we've been looking at, one provisional answer presents itself. Even if the bill poster is a manual laborer, his work is directed toward mechanically produced images, namely, the printed multiplesheet posters that he pastes up around the city. The depicted poster is, for its part, pictorially linked to representations of mechanically produced imagery in other works by Sloan from this time, since it is positioned in roughly the same place in the composition as both the projection screen in Election Night and die movie screen in Movies, Five Cents - not to mention that the image on the poster somewhat evokes the couple on the screen in the latter painting. This could very well account for why Sloan did not pursue this particular motif any further. With these pictures, he aimed not only to establish the art of painting at the center of a lively and joyful urban social life but also to distinguish it from the new modes of mechanical image production and reproduction that were clearly becoming a major feature of contemporary cultural experience. Connecting or conflating the painter and the bill poster would have thoroughly undermined the program that he was developing in his work at this time.
Which brings us back to Hairdresser's Window, with its building facade studded with all those placards and signs. When it was painted, the city was filled with printed posters, advertisements, and hand-bills of all sorts, yet Sloan made it a point to render signs that were unmistakably hand-lettered. They are, further, more hastily rendered and messier than one would expect from all but the most unskilled (or careless) sign painter. Clearly, Sloan's skill at lettering is not in question, as evidenced by the clearly rendered sign above the door in the roughly contemporary painting The Haymarket, the fine lettering in the etching The Show Case, or the lettering in his many illustrations. Rather, he apparently wanted these lettered placards to speak of the work of the hand. Such a concern sets Sloan apart from a Philadelphian predecessor like the trompe l'oeil painter John Frederick Peto, who rendered currency notes, photographs, and printed ephemera with aplomb. It also differentiates him from the painter Thomas Le Clear, whose earlier Buffalo Neiosboy (of 1853) positions its titular subject against a wall covered with handbills and posters. Those printed bills, like the newspapers at the boy's feet, speak to a world that, already by the midnineteenth century, had been shaped by the presence of new communications media. Not content with merely replicating those new media in painted form, Sloan consistently imagined alternatives to their increasingly visible and insistent presence.
In retrospect, it makes sense that in 1907 Sloan would set himself to working on a cycle of pictures that self-consciously reflected on the contemporary status of the medium of painting. He was certainly aware that the coming group exhibition at the Macbeth Galleries, early the following year, promised to put his work on a larger public stage - which is indeed what wound up happening. And, likely as a result, that year saw him producing a large body of paintings in a flurry of activity. As we have seen, this led him to repeatedly invoke the act of painting in his pictures, through figures who embodied the gestures and physical orientation of the painter, as well as through objects (hand-lettered signs, whitewashed trees, framed movie screens) that referenced the medium in one way or another. Through these canvases, he imagined (and imaged) painting not as elite and cloistered, but rather as a profoundly public activity that was capable of drawing the attention of the new urban masses. And painting, connected as it was to a long tradition of craftsmanship and handwork, stood opposed to the newer urban entertainments, like the moving-picture show, that were delivered by mechanical means. Fittingly, then, the crowds he conjured for his painter surrogates were not immobile and distracted, like the movie audience, nor were they the teeming, chaotic, potentially violent masses. Just as painting had a longer history, so, too, did Sloan's vision of a carnivalesque crowd that was immersed in sensory, oftentimes erotic pleasure, thus offering up the possibility of a contemporary urban idyll, with painting at its heart.
Coda: Send in the Clown
By 1910, this episode in Sloan's work had largely passed, and things had changed significantly for him. In the years after 1907, he became more caught up in the attention to his work that had been generated by the Macbeth Galleries exhibition. As his interest in politics grew, he became more and more devoted to the cause of socialism, which would result in his vigorous involvement with the journal the Masses. His painterly technique and palette also shifted. His awareness of these changes may be reflected in a 1910 canvas, Clown Making Up (Fig. 26). It's a relatively simple and rather somber picture, which presents a costumed clown, seated and alone, applying makeup by candlelight.75 The picture's subject matter, at first blush, looks far removed from the paintings by Sloan we've already examined, yet it, too, yields a self-conscious reflection on the artist's practice: it is, of Course, a picture of someone applying pigment - in other words, paint - to his face. Sloan calls attention to this activity in a number of ways: he placed the clown's head and face just about dead center in the composition and indicated the presence of the pigmentapplying tool (not a brush, but likely some sort of sponge) with a bright white squiggle that appears in the figure's hand. There is also that box of makeup that sits on the table before him, which bears a close resemblance to a painter's palette.
Clown Making Up is revealing for the ways it both relates to and departs from the works we've already examined. If, as we've seen in such pictures as Election Night and Movies, Five Cents, Sloan imagined painting as a longer-lived, artisanal antidote to the spectacular entertainments of the modern city, Clown Making Up suggests an even more extreme distancing from modernity. This interior is lit not by the gas or electric lights that are evident in so many of the artist's other works, but by two humble candles. There is really no indication of the modern world at all here; instead, we are treated to a practically tuneless genre scene. And this is in keeping with the subject, in that the clown could have been, in other hands or even at another point in Sloan's practice, used as a symbol or avatar of modern urban spectacle. Clearly, Sloan could have captured any one of the wide variety of entertainments available to urban audiences at the time, as his old friend and Ashcan colleague William Glackens did in a work like Hammerstein 's Roof Garden, or Everett Shinn in his numerous, Impressionist-inspired stage scenes. But, tellingly, Sloan shows us not a performer in front of his audience but a practitioner alone, in a quiet moment of preparation. It is thus very unlike Hairdresser's Window and Election Night, in which figurai substitutes for the painter practice their craft in public, and in so doing draw the attention of large urban crowds. Clown Making Up indicates, then, a move away from the social into a private, enclosed, interior realm.'7
In these ways, Clown Making Up embodies changes taking place in Sloan's practice at the time, and perhaps even augurs changes still to come. Although he would never turn away from urban subjects completely, in the 1910s and 1920s we see him devoting himself more to rural landscapes (in Gloucester and elsewhere), which would eventually culminate in his many trips to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he would celebrate Native American rituals and other subjects tied not to the contemporary present but to the past. Moreover, at this time his general focus on urban subject matter was in some ways beginning to be overshadowed by an exploration of the formal qualities of painting itself. In fact, as Sloan himself noted, Clown Making Up was one of the first paintings he executed using the so-called Maratta method. '* This method, introduced to him by Henri, was a prearranged tonal system of pigments assembled and marketed by one Hardesty G. Maratta. Sloan's embrace of a prearranged system of color signals an implicit willingness to key his paintings less to direct experience and more to intra-artistic concerns. In short, the clown making up alone, without his audience, is a fitting emblem for an artist who was to some extent uncoupling his work from its primary focus on the social and the public. The isolation of the clown, lacking his audience, also lends the picture a certain degree of melancholy. In contrast to The Picnic Grounds and Election Night, this is not a joyous image. It is darker, both literally and metaphorically - somber and brooding. Finally, it is a picture, at base, of self-creation: of a creative individual making himself into the image that he will present to the public. The costumed performer would have been a figure with some potential for self-identification, considering Sloan's early experiences and inclination toward dressing up for amateur theatricals within his early circle in Philadelphia. On a less literal level, the articulation of a creative persona had already been a concern at the center of Sloan's work, as he explored his artistic identity by finding painterly surrogates in his urban surroundings. Clown Making Up is an image of an individual who is creating a new identity through painting; alternatively, one could see him as using paint to mask his identity. Whatever the case, at least for a moment Sloan had again found a motif through which to explore his own sense of himself as a painter and conjure a place for painting in the modern world, however circumscribed or provisional it may have been.
This project has benefited from the generosity of numerous individuals and institutions. Thanks are due to Heather Campbell Coyle of the Delaware Art Museum, for graciously sharing information that has proven invaluable to my research; to Rachael DiEleuterio of the Helen Farr Sloan Library, Delaware Art Museum, for her assistance with research and with images; to Karen Lang and the anonymous Art Bulletin reviewer for their insightful responses to earlier drafts: to Lory Frankel, for her impeccable copyediting; to all those colleagues who have offered helpful feedback, including James Glisson, Jonathan Weinberg, Alastair Wright, Jennifer Roberts, Bryan Wolf, Joyce Schiller, Romy Golan, and Thomas Crow: to audiences at Stanford University» Harvard University, ihe Delaware Art Museum, the Newark Museum, and the Graduate Center, CUNY, for their responses to lectures thai formed the basis of this article; and to fan McDermotl, Joe Hannarj, and Anita Duquette for assistance with and advice about images and permissions. This project was made possible through the financial support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Office of the Provost, Purchase College, and the New York State/ United University Professions Joint Labor-Management Professional Development Awards Program.
1. Smart Set 3, no. 4 (April 1901): 23 of the advertising pages, Another advertisement, from three years later, lists a "Mrs. M. Malcolm, 491 Sixth Ave.," as a seller of "The Empress" Instantaneous Hair Restorer, a product of the Empress Manufacturing Co. See Club Women of Neui York (New York: Mail and Express Company, 1904), CCCLIV (advertising page 354).
2. Rowland Elzea, the compiler of Sloan's catalogue raisonné of paintings, characterizes 1907 as a "year of extraordinary activity for Sloan." He suggests there are two reasons for this, "one being that he had found his subject matter in the city scenes and was confident in his ability to handle them, and the other his and his friends' mounting excitement for the plan that would result in the exhibition of The Eight the next spring." Elzea, John Shan's Oil Paintings,: A Catalogue Raisonné, pt. 1 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991), 75.
3. "The exhibition opened to crowds on February 3, 1908, at Maeheth Galleries on Fifth Avenue. Sloan chose to be represented entirely by works from the extraordinarily productive year of 1907: Easter Eve; Hairdresser's Window; The Col; Sixth Avenue ana 'Thirtieth Street; Election Night; Nursemaids, Madison Square (a painting of women with their cliarges in Madison Square): and Movies, Five Cents. All but The Cot were pictures of Chelsea's streets, parks, and amusements, and critics read The Cot as a glimpse into the apartment of a working-class woman, not unlike the etchings inspired by Sloan's neighbors in his New York City Life set. Sloan's selection was distinctive for its urban focus." Heather Campbell Coyle and Joyce K. Schiller, "John Sloan's Urban Encounters," in fohn Sloan's New York, exh. cat. (Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007). 49.
4. On Sloan and the gendering of consumer culture, see Laural Weintraub, "Women as Urban Spectators in John Sloan's Early Work," American Art 15, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 72-83; for a (rather unconvincing) argument about the picture and panoptic vision, see Susan Fillin-Yeh, "Images as Imaginary Documents: John Sloan's Sidewalks and Thresholds," in Coyle and Schiller, fohn Sioan's New York, esp. 122-26; on the culture of urban looking, see Rebecca Zurier, Picturing the City: Urban Vision and. the Ashcan School (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006) ; and for a psychoanalytic reading of Hairdressers Windmo, see Janice M. Coco, fohn Sloan's Women: A Psychoanalysis of Vision (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004), esp. chap. 3, "Looking through the Hairdressei-'s Window" 57-78.
5. Sloan diary, June 5, 1907. AU quotations from Sloan's diaries (which range from 1906 to 1913) come from a transcribed and annotated (but unpublished) version (by Judith O'Toole in consultation with Helen Farr Sloan; further editing by Jeanette Toohey in about 1998) in the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, which holds the originals in its John Sloan Manuscript Collection.
6. Zurier Picturing the City, 249-50) continues: "The effect is conceptual rather than perceptual (which Sloan denigrated as 'eyesight' painting). but usually not as pointed as a one-line cartoon. Radier, Sloan's urban 'memory' pictures create extended moments isolated from amid the flux of the changing city, in keeping with the techniques of the realist fiction and narrative movies he enjoyed in these years."
7. In other paintings, such as The Haymarket (1907) and Easter Eve (1907), Sloan similarly played with signs of spatial depdi by constructing scenes in which flat building facades run parallel to the picture plane, with openings (doorways, windows) that punctuate them. The blight tones of the flowers in die latter picture are evidence of the artist's interest in the visual effects of artificial illumination. At the same time, rendered as they are in loose, gestural strokes and comprising a mass of relatively undifferentiated colored forms arrayed on the flat surface of the canvas, they confound any sense of a clear division between the interior and exterior of the store. On the importance of the plate-glass window in promoting a culture of display and window shopping at this time, see William Leach, "Strategists of Display and the Production of Desire," in Consuming Visions: Accumulation and Display of Goods in America. 1880-1920, ed. Simon J. Branner (New York: W.'W. Norton, 1990), 99-132.
Sloan wasn't the only Ashcan school artist to tackle this sort of subject matter. In a 1903 picture tided Window Shopping, Sloan's colleague Everett Shinn depicted a lone woman standing on a rain-flecked sidewalk in front of a store window display, this one of mannequins in the latest women's fashions. Shinn was certainly attuned to issues of formal and compositional structure, but he applied these to much different ends.
8. Robert W. Snyder and Rebecca Zurier, "Picturing the City," in Zurier. Snyder, and Virginia M. Mecklenburg, Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York, exh. cat. (Washington. D.C.: National Museum of American Art, 1995), 152.
9. For instance, on March 13, 1908, he wrote in his. diary. "My portrait of W. S. Walsh is on the line, though the 'Haymarket' is skied."
10. Bertha V. O'Brien. "Canvasses of The Eight' No Beauty Feast," Detroit Free Press 29 (November 1908), quoted in Zurier. Picturing the City, 2.
11. Sloan's earliest known paintings are self-portraits, one from 1890, the other from 1894. In the first he stares straight out, centered in the composition. The 1894 self-portrait is more hi the Romantic mode, brooding and soulful (perhaps even melancholy);, but there's no indication of painterly work, either. In the 1912 Self-Portrait, Gray Shirt, Sloan's raised arm suggests thai he's painting himself as he's looking in a mirror, but all the accoutrements of painting, (easel, canvas, brush, and so on) are kept out of the frame. A few years later we see tiiose accoutrements in Self-Portrait, Paintmg (Himself) of about 1916, Sloan is more inclined, in such prims as Memory (1906) and Amateur Lithographers (1908), to clearly show himself drawing or pulling a print The only possible exception to this tendency is Sloan's short-lived comic strip, Paul Pallette, the Practical Painiist, if we take the tide character as a stand-in for Sloan.
12. March probably appeared in a similar scene with Sloan in a word-puzzle panel three and a half years earlier; from the October 15, 1905, Philadelphia Press, it shows a figure, likely March, similarly pointing, and Instructing Sloan. Several items m March's obituary published in die New York Times, September 15. 1942, 23, support this identification: it notes tbat March worked as the Press's Sunday editor from 1897 to 1910, and that March was tall, which jibes with the stature of die figure in the 1909 puzzle panel. My thanks to Headier Campbell Coyle for first suggesting this identification to me.
13. The center and righi swatches roughly match the auburn hair of the seated client and the blonde hair of the hairdresser, respectively; although the room's darkened interior makes it almost impossible to identify for certain the assistant's hair color, it's certainly in the tonal range of the dark brown of the leftmost swatch. Further, this quasiharmonic grouping of threes finds its complement below in the group of girls in the picture's foreground. Although the hues are slightly different-the hair of the girl at left is a light brown, and that of the girl at right is black - there is a similar tonal arrangement, although the reverse of those above in that the tonal shift here, from light to dark, moves from left to right.
14. My thanks to Alastair Wright for suggesting this interpretation.
15. Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. "mahistick," http://www.oed.com (accessed February 28, 2011)..
16. See, for instance, Robert Hupter and Charles Morris, eds., Universal Dictionary Of the English Language (New York: Peter Fenelon Collier, 1897), 3019; and William Dwight Whitney, ed.. The Century Dictionary, 6 vols. (New York: Century Co., 1890). vol. 4, 3597.
17. There is, further, another play on words that may be operative here, since the hairdresser is also understood to be the proprietor of a hair salon or, in the French that may have been used at the time, a "salon de coiffure." One newspaper account from the 1890s not only uses that term but also emphasizes rite gendering of hairdressing as female in the United States, a change from the earlier French model: "In France, where hairdressing is a great art, all the work is done by men, In America, the women monopolize the business. But they are quite as serious, as I discovered by spending a morning in a Broadway 'salon de coiffure.'" )Harrydele Hallmark, "Hair Dressing Is an Art,' Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1894, 18 The term "hair salon,' or hairdressing salon," was in use in Sloan's time, as indicated by an ad for the "Metropolitan Manicuring and Hairdressing Salon,' at 448 Columbus Avenue. in the New York Tribune June 1, 1902, 15. `"Salon' is a term, of course, that evokes deep assodations with painting and its exhibition history, particularly in the context of the picture's aforementioned invocation of a salon'style hanging. My thanks to Susan lieren for suggesting this interpretation.
18. Mary D. Garrard, "Artemisia Gentileachi's Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting,' Aft Bulletin 62, no, 1 (March 1980): 97.
19. The Chaplin image closely follows the model of Francois Bottcher's 1755 Allegory of Painting, in which the figure of Pittura and her cherubic attendants reside in an ethereal realm, clouds billowing around them.
20. Years later, writing in his seminal text Gist of Art (New York: American Artists Group, 1939). 37, Sloan had something to say about originality and borrowing that sounds remarkably like an explanation (or delease) of the modem twist on a traditional motif he had devised in Hairdresser's Window; "Don't be afraid to borrow. The great men, the most original, bun-owed from everybody. Witness Shakeapeare and Rembrandt. They borrowed from the techniques of tradition and created new images by the power of their imagination and human understanding. Little men just borrow from one person. Assimilate all you can from tradition and then say things in your own way."
21. Garrard, "Gentileschi's Self-Portrait," 101.
22. Courbetls painting has inspired a wide range of interpretations, many of which are retiewed by Linda Nochlin in tourbet's Real Allegory: Rereading "The Painter's Studio,'' in Courtier Reconsidered, ed. Sarah Faunce and Mochlin, exh. cat. (Brooklyn: Brooklyn Museum, 1988), 17-41.
23. Sloan's 1909 painting Three A.M., is as good an example of this as any. He not only chose to portray the woman standing at the stove as the picture of unloveliness-thick, lumpen-but he also applied the paint, particularly on her face, almost as if reaching for the most extreme ugliness possible: her face i5 made up of clotted touches of variegated color, of red, orange, ocher.
24. Titus Munson Coan. "Gustave Courbet, Artist and Communist," Century Magazine 27. no. 4 (February 1884): 483-95. The article is in thejoha Sloan Manuscript Collection. Helen Fan- Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, box 261 ("Miscellaneous Scrapbooks'), scrapbook no, 5. It is difficult to determine, however, when Sloan would have gotten hold of the article, since he was about thirteen years old at the time of its original publication. Btst then, when would he have acquired it? Could it have been much later, even very life? in life? Certainly though, it had some importance for him, and in this respect the tide of the article is quite telling.
25. There are also other details that suggest a connection between the two pictures. For one, the positioning of the hairdresser's assistant roughly approximates that of Linda Henri, who in the print is seated in the foreground, holding a book. Both are shown in profile, with one arm outstretched and a similar positioning of their hands, with fingers curled or cupped. In addition, the hairdresser and her assistant flank the client, just as Sloan and Linda flank Dolly, although the client is turned into the scene, while Dolly looks out at us.
26. The drawing itself is a curious thing, more finished than Sloan's usual hasty sketches of his motifs. It is more finished even than the painting itself, as is particularly evident in the facial features of the assistant (these are not delineated in the painting). It is also odd that the drawing shows not the whole image but only the scene as viewed through the window.
27. There are differences, between the two as well: the hairdresser has what looks like a double chin, and her coiffure is more voluminous.
28. In the drawing he shows himself looking down through a telescope or spyglass at his wife, Dolly, who waves (with a handkerchief) to him from their apartment window below. Sloan to Robert Henri, November 13, 1912, John Sloan Manuscript Collection.
29. This identification is made in a caption in an article on Sloan's biographer Van Wyck Brooks. See Denys Sutton, "The Magic of Nostalgia: Van Wyck Brooks and the American Tradition," Apollo 113, no. 229 (March 1981): 139. However, the figure at right, with his mustache and goateé. or Vandyke, also resembles period photographs of the landscape painter Ernest Lawson, also a member of the Eight.
30. It's curious that he depicted himself in the drawing in this way - at a physical remove from his colleagues and, as a result, also smaller than them, literally in the background. Then again, oue gets the sense that he has made the others into promenading Caricatures of themselves, whereas he's the one who is shown at work.
31. Also, the crossing out of "Madam" leaves us with "Malcomb," which is. we might note, homophonic for "Malcolm," a man's name.
32. Sloan diary, November 5, 1907. The diary entry, taken along with the finished picture, tells us a great deal about Sloan's approach. Although he recorded a number of different scenes in his diary - a raucous crowd, a bonfire, a policeman's efforts to take control - making the painting involved selecting one motif out of the many possible.
33. As noted in Elzea, Sloan's Oil Paintings, 82.
34. Sloan diary. March 15, 1909, quoted in Zurier, Picturing the City, 249.
35. He was clearly pleased with the result, writing in his diary (November 12, 1907), "Got to work in the afternoon on a picture of Election night on Broadway and got the thing to suit me right well. Think it one of my best things. So that 1 felt happy in the evening, that good all over feeling that only comes from satisfaction in work; the real happiness, the joy of accomplishing or thinking that one has accomplished, which amounts to the same thing."
36. In Election Night we are looking north, with the elevated tracks receding up Sixdi Avenue; this places us about a half mile away from Sloan's apartment, on West Twenty-third Street.
37. My thanks to Joyce Schiller for pointing out the garment's resemblance to a painter's smock. Considering Sloan's correlation, in Hairdresser's Window, of painting with a form of common labor, it is significant that the smock also would have been identified with the workingman.
38. "Coney Island: The World's Greatest Play Ground as It Is To-day." Summaty (Elmira, N.Y.) 36, no. 27 (July, 4. 1908): 18.
39. Joseph Leo Koerner discusses the history of such figures in his extended analysis of the distinctive Ruchinfigur (or "back figure") that appears in the work of Caspar David Friedrich. Roeraer notes, "The Rückenfigur is not Caspar David Friedrich's invention, having a long if not quite coherent history in European painting before the nineteenth century. Already in Giotto turned figures sometimes feature in the foreground of a composition, establishing an imaginary fourth wall in the picture's cube of space. These structuring bodies, diough, rarely function stricdy as viewers within the painted scene." Koemer goes on to point out that "the event [Fricdrieh's Ruckenfiguren] dramatize is never the actual labour of making, but rather the originary act of experience itself," which would thus distinguish them from Sloan's employment of such a figure, in a pose mimicking the act of painting, in his own picture. Koerner, Caspar David Friedrich and the. Subject of Landscape (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 162-63.
40. Michael Fried describes "Courbet's instinctive predilection for ä particular array of themes, figurai motifs, and compositional structures," which he interprets "as representing, indirectly or metaphorically, the painter-beholder's physical and psychical engagement in the activity of painting and, ultimately, his desire to transport himself as if bodily into the work taking, shape before him," Fried, Courbet's Realism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 151-52.. As Fried points out, in Courbet's work such actions tend to be indirecdy or metaphorically related to painting. So, for instance, Fried interprets the central action in Courbet's The Wheat Sifters (1853-54) - a shower of grain falling on a white cloth, along with the bodily orientation of the kneeling sifter facing into the scene - as just this type of incorporation of the painterbeholder within the picture. There is, in this respect, a significant difference between Courbet and Sloan, at least in terms of their shared incorporation of painterly surrogates into their pictures: none of the figures that Fried discusses (wheat sifter, stone breaker, and so on) Is anywhere near as explicit a stand-in for the painter as the man with the tickler-brush or, for that matter, tire hairdresser applying dye or bleach with a brushlike implement.
41. The oddest figure in the scene is, to my eyes, the woman in the foreground. What is that thin diagonal line that extends from her right hand? Is it some cord that hangs around the trunk or, more likely, some kind of switch or buggy whip? More conspicuously, the targedike rings of her (cricket) cap are positioned almost exacdy at the center of the composition, like a Jasper Johns Target before the fact.
42. Sloan diary, May 30. 1906.
43. Elzea, Sloan's Oil Paintings, 69.
44. This emphasis is reinforced by the tide of the work, which describes not the figures but their surroundings.
45. J. H. Prosi, "Whitewashing Trees Injures Them; It's Unsightly," Chicago Daily Tribune, July 10, 1910, E3.
46. John Sloan to Margit Varga, February 27, 1942, quoted in Elzea. Sloan's Oil Plantings, 69-70.
47. "New York Fight Dull," Washington Post, October 26. 1907. 4; and "Fight for Judgeship," Washington Post, October 28, 1907, 3.
48. See, for instance, "Ihmsen Scents Fraud," New York Tribune, November 6, 1907, 2. Even the text on the screen at back, which eould have provided yet more information or commentary, is small and difficult to read, and what is legible seems rather generalized ("[rE?] COUNTING/ [NEW YORK?] /49,000/ [PL?]URALity).
49. "Thousands Watch Times Bulletins." New York Times, November 6, 1907, 4.
50. "Our Crowds Grow Too Fierce," New York Times, November 8, 1906, 8.
52. Robert Hughes, American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 327: ". . . Sloan's painted world is generally amiable, a place full of fleshy, rosy girls on swings or in dance halls, Brooklyn Fragonard and Hester Street Renoir, chattering in front of the nickelodeon parlor or parading in Washington Square Park. Prone to the sentimental fallacy of treating the poor as figures in an urban pastorale, he wanted to see happiness everywhere. . . ."
53. Sloan's vignette of the two young boys at lower right, for example, is reminiscent of the two putti, also at lower right, in Poussin's Bacchanal with a Guitar Player, a painting long in the collection of the Musee du Lomre, Paris, with the boy's puttied nose in Sloan's scene substituting for the mask in the earlier picture. My dianks to Thomas Crow for suggesting the connection to Poussin.
54. A clipping in the New York Public Library picture collection, dated November 1872, contains a print depicting election returns projected on a large sheet stretched on the side of a building. The caption reads. "The Electoral Magic lantern." See New York Public Library, Digital Gallery, image ID 801473, http://digitalgalleiy.nypl.org/nypldigital/ id?80'1473 (accessed December 21. 2010).
55. "Great Noise and Blare Mark Election Returns." New Y'ark Times, November 7, 1906, 5: 'the times had built a platform out in front of the building for a band, just below the big white canvas sheet on which the election bulletins were thrown. Within the little wooden house on stilts, out in front of that, in which was the bulletin machine, was also a huge music machine. The band was there in its place on time and the music box played gallantly . . . . The festival spirit was uppermost, and many people sang in accompaniment to the music. Usually there was some bulletin on the sheet that was provocative of cheers, and when there wasn't there were pictures of Hughes and Hearst and Roosevelt and others to make the crowds exercise their festival night privilege of splitting the air."
57. Katherine E. ManLhorne, "John Sloan, Moving Pictures, and Celtic Spiriis," in Coyle and Schiller, John Sloan's Ntiv York, 150-79. See also idem, 'John Sloan's Moving-Picture Eye," American Art 18, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 80-95.
58. Manthorne, "John Sloan, Moving Pictures." 152.
59. For a broader discussion of this issue, see the various essays in Nancy Mowll Mathews and Charles Musser, eds.. Moving Pictures: American Art and. Early Film, 1880-1910, exh. cat. (Manchester. Vt.: Hudson Hills Press in association with the Williams College Museum of Art. 2005).
60. Movies, Five Cents was executed in the summer of 1907, a few months before Election Night.
61. Manthorne, "John Sloan, Moving Pictures," 155.
62. Ibid. For more on the presentation of the movie screen within a picture frame, see also Nancy Mowll Matiiews, "Art and Film: Interactions," in Mathews and Musser, Moving Pictures, 146-48.
63. John Sloan, "Notes," CImp-Book 5, no. 5 (July 15. 1896): 239.
64. Ibid., 240.
65. For more on this practice, and on the Edison Manufacturing Company film The John C. Rue-May Irwin Kiss, see Charles Musser, "A Cornucopia of Images: Comparison and Judgment across Theater, Film, and the Visual Arts during the Late Nineteenth Century ," in Mathews and Musser, Moving Pictures. 31-34.
66. Wendy Clauson Schlereth, The ChapBook: A Journal of American Intellectual Life in the 1890s (Ann Arbor. Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1982), 63.
67. Mathews, "Art and Film: Interactions," 149.
68. Mathews's claim (ibid.) diat Sloan was "celebrating" the vulgarity of the medium in Fun, One tent is belied in part by the fact that as viewers we are unable to see the images that the girls are looking. a.L Perhaps this lack of visual access is merely a function of the medium in quesdon; in the kinetoscope, the moving image was viewed within a cabinet, whh the movement initiated by a handle that the viewer cranked. But it also may be that Sloan exploited this disjunction in order to create a tension between image and text, between looking and reading, which was a recurring interest for him (in this respect, think of the play in Hairdresser's Window between the lettered signs on the building's facade and the scene viewed through the open window at center). We can read the lurid descriptions above each cabinet (such as "those naughty chorus girls"), but the images to which they refer are inaccessible to us (the signs above the leftmost two cabinets contain rectangular boxes that ostensibly show the corresponding images, but these are too tiny, too sketchy, and too darkly shadowed to be legible). As with the differences between the initial sketch arid Movies, Five tents, this privileging of image over text may be yet another gesture by Sloan to effectively distance or disassociate us as viewers from the moving-image medium. Moreover, even if we set aside for a moment this aspect of the etching, one might still reasonably wonder if it truly "celebrates" the kinetoscope, as Mathews argues, (kmsidering the girls' youth (particularly the nvo at right, whose small stature forces them to balance on a stool in order to reach the viewing slots), it could just as easily tx* read as an indictment of the medium's inappropriateness for young (female) viewers, who had gained access to it through the new freedoms afforded by urban life.
69. The correspondence, though, is not exact; in the earlier film the figures are shown in close-up. about bust length, while Sloan offers a fulllength view of his figures.
70. These later dates are present on many of the items in the Sloan archives at the Delaware Art Museum. They pose a problem for the scholar; since most of them seem to have been added later, they should always be taken with a grain of sall.
71. Manthorne ("John Sloan, Moving Pictures," 158) identifies this as "a sketch that is taking shape on the billboard. . . ." However, this suggestion that the man is in the process of sketching doesn't seem accurate in light of the figure's bodily position, his distance from the image's surface, and the length of the implement he's holding.
72. "Adorn the Dead Walls," Chicago. Daily Tribune, February 21, 1897, 35.
73. "All Stuck on the Town," Chicago Daily Tribune, July 21, 1896, 12.
74. Manthorne ("John Sloan, Moving Pictures," 158) .suggests that the male figure reaches out to grab the throat of the female as if to choke her, but the looseness of the rendering makes it difficult to make such an identification with any certainty; he could be pointing or even reaching out to embrace her.
75. About the painting, Elzea (Shan's Oil Paintings, 104) opined. "This is a very unusual painting in Sloan's oeuvre in that it is an entirely posed and concocted subject and is of a sentimentality contrary to Sloan's nature." Although 1 agree with Elzea's assessment of the subject's distinctiveness in Sloan's body of work, I would challenge his assertion that it "is of a sentimentality contrary to Sloan's nature," since I think it speaks to Sloan's reflection on developments in his practice. According to Elzea, the model for the figure was one Mr. Wilson, a professional, model from whom Sloan had borrowed a costume for a ball and whom he hired to pose for the painting.
76. Clown Making Up even presages a later work by another artist, from the second half of the twentieth century, that employs much the same motif: a series of films by Bruce Nauman, in which, the artist captures himself covering his face and upper torso with colored makeup. Both artworks incorporate devices of self-regard, with the film camera replacing the mirror in the later work,
77. One could even read this as an indication of profound ambivalence. The clown is a practitioner of spectacular entertainment - he's meant, after all, to be seen by a large assembled audience - 'yet this aspect of the figure is ultimately negated, since he's depicted here offstage, away from the clamoring crowd.
78. Sloan, Gist of Art, 222, cited in Elzea, Sloan's Oil Paintings, 104.
Michael Label is an associate professor of art history and. director of lite MA Program in Modern and Contemporary Art, Criticism, and Theory at Purchase CoUege, State University of New York. He is completing a book on John Shan, the Ashcan school, and popular illustration iSchool of Humanities, Purchase CoUege, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, N.Y. 10577-1400, email@example.com].