Director Emeritus Grant Holcomb speaks about this object.
The Gallery is blessed with an excellent and representative collection of the Ash Can School….that group of artists who, at the turn of the 20th century, captured the energy and variety of everyday life in New York City. Jerome Myers paints immigrant life on the lower East Side; George Luks, a street urchin smoking; Everett Shinn doesn’t paint Fifth Avenue but a less fashionable neighborhood on Sullivan Street. And though Sullivan Street is another of my very favorite paintings, no one better represents the Ash Can School than John Sloan in Election Night of 1907 and Chinese Restaurant of 1909, both “textbook examples,” both “pilgrimage paintings.” Perhaps tame to our eyes today, we must remember that, when painted, these works were new, raw and even controversial. One critic referred to the artists as “The Apostles of Ugliness”
Sloan loved to walk the streets of New York at all hours of the day and night in order to find suitable subjects to paint. His people frolic in public squares, gaze in shop windows, enjoy a meal in favorite restaurants and, in Election Night, celebrate democracy in Herald Square on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 34th Street.
His diaries tell us that on November 5th, he was walking in the afternoon and saw “boys in droves, foraging for fuel for their election fires this evening.” He came back after dinner and saw what he called “A good humorous crowd, so dense in places that it was impossible to control one’s movement.” A week later he began painting Election Night from memory… and later wrote “Think it one of my best things”.
Certainly the composition captures the crowd’s good spirits and what poet Carl Sandburg called “the crazy, wonderful, slamming roar of the streets.” The slashing, vigorous brushwork, the dramatic contrasts of light and dark and the animated gestures of the figures convey the energy, liveliness and vitality that Sloan found on “the sidewalks of New York!”
Poets and Rochesterians speak about this object.
Election Night—1907 by Ed Scutt
This is the half that knows what's right— unlike the half who voted for those who would overthrow the government. These are the derbies and suits and their women advisors in gay gowns and swirling hats who spray the victory bubbles in the street under the El. They keep in office president status and vice president quo who will tax the poor and shelter the rich, who will target a war and then invent the reasons. These are the revelers who ignore the glares and thin, set lips across town—too impatient for the next time to vote.
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