William Glackens was an American Realism artist and one of the founders of the Ashcan School. Upon returning to New York, Glackens formed connections with a collective of artists known as The Eight. William James Glackens was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1870.
He graduated from Central High School in 1890, immediately enrolling at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He learned from Thomas Anshutz, a respected realist painter. Anshutz became the Painting Director after Thomas Eakins, another American Realism artist.
While at the Academy, Glackens met John Sloan, who introduced him to Robert Henri, George Luks, and Everett Shinn. After leaving the Academy, the students became illustrators for Philly newspapers and created the Ashcan School art movement.
William Glacken's oil paintings often depict urban life street scenes, which are the hallmark of American Realism and the Ashcan School art.
Robert Henri was a well-known and respected figure in the Philadelphia art scene. He regularly hosted meetings at his studio with George Luks and John Sloan. At these meetings, they discussed the art world and art theory and to took time to critique their paintings.
This loose association became known as the Ashcan School. It is so named as these artists rejected the formality of 19th century art in favor of a more realistic look at life in American cities and the struggles and deprivations of the American working class.
Edward Hopper is considered a member of the Ashcan School. Although he did not associate himself with the group, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks painting bears all the hallmarks of Ashcan School paintings.
The original members, Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks, and Everett Shinn, are also known as the Philadelphia Five.
Famous Ashcan School paintings are Washington Square 1912 by William Glackens and McSorley’s Bar 1912 by John Sloan. George Luks's The Boxing Match is similar to George Bellows's famous painting Stag at Sharkeys.
In 1895 Glackens and Henri went to Europe to study European art. They lived first in Holland, studying the works of the Old Masters. They moved to Paris for a year, renting a studio and gaining exposure to European Impressionist paintings and Post-Impressionist art. Both Henri and Glackens were captivated by the oil paintings of Eduard Manet. Paintings by Claude Monet had a powerful influence on William Glacken's paintings. Bathers at Bellport c1912, a Glackens oil painting in the ownership of the Phillips Collection, may well have been inspired by one of Claude Monet's famous paintings, Red Boats, Argenteuil, painted in 1857 and on view at the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris.
This first trip to Europe, and France in particular, was very influential on the young Glackens, and he made frequent trips back to France throughout his life, mainly to Paris and the South of France.
In 1896 Glackens came back to America and settled in New York. His friend George Luks found him a job as a sketching artist for the New York Herald. He was sent to Cuba to record the events of the Spanish-American War, and in 1901, upon his return to New York, Glackens, Henri, and Sloan exhibited their paintings at the Allen Gallery, which drew the public to his abilities as an artist.
William James Glackens married Edith Dimock, a woman from a wealthy Connecticut family, in 1904. She was also an artist, and they resided in Greenwich Village. Glackens became an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design in 1906, becoming a full member in 1933.
On his return to New York, Glackens started associating with a collective of artists famously referred to as The Eight. The original five artists were Glackens, Henri, Sloan, Luks, and Shin, the original Ashcan School, was joined by Arthur Davis, Ernest Lawson, and Maurice Prendergast. The term was attributed to them by the art press after they held a joint exhibition in 1908. The show was held at the Macbeth Gallery and then went on to tour in several American cities, including Chicago.
After 1910, William Glackens art is seen to move away from the Ashcan Movement to a style closer to Pierre Auguste Renoir. Both Glackens and Pierre Renoir completed a series of famous nude paintings. Back of Nude by William Glackens was painted between 1930 to 1938, whereas Pierre August Renoir's nude painting Woman after Bath was completed in 1896; both are impressionist oil paintings.
Barnes was a multi-millionaire businessman who met William Glackens during their school days at Central High School in Philadelphia.
On one of Glackens visits to Paris, Albert C Barnes commissioned him to purchase various paintings by French artists. Glackens returned to America with some twenty paintings by Paul Cezanne, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, and Henri Matisse. These oil on canvas paintings are the core of what became the Barnes Foundation Collection.
Barnes and Glackens continued to work together to increase the number of oil paintings in the Barnes Collection. Barnes and Glackens frequently traveled to France between 1925 and 1935 to study the work of famous Impressionist paintings and Post Impressionist artists purchasing more paintings for Barnes.
Today the Barnes Collection owns over 900 paintings estimated to be worth more than $25 billion.
Albert C. Barnes bought many of Glackens’ best oil paintings for his Barnes Foundation Collection in Philadelphia.
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was also a collector of Glacken's paintings for her Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City and Duncan Phillips for his Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
By far, the most extensive permanent collection of paintings by Willaim Glackens is the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, which has an entire purpose-built wing housing over 500 of his artworks. Constructed in 2001, the Glackens Wing has his earliest painting, Philadelphia Landscape, painted in 1893, and his last completed painting, White Rose and Other Flowers, painted in 1937, just before his death.
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