In February, 1942, The Renaissance Society presented the first Chicago exhibition of paintings by John Sloan. From February 16, the evening after the Modd Lecture to be given by Mr. Sloan in Mandel Hall, through March 13, the Society will present a retrospective exhibition of his etchings which will be a complete survey of his work in this medium. It will consist of 170 prints as well as the etched illustrations for the Paul de Kock novels and those from Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. The earliest plate included will be Dedham Castle, done in 1888, when the artist was seventeen years old. This will be followed by portrait sketches and compositions and the unique collection of illustrations for the de Kock novels executed from 1902-1905. At this time Sloan moved from his Philadelphia birthplace to New York to join the group of progressive artists known as “The Eight,” which consisted of Sloan, Robert Henri, Everett Shinn, Charles Prendergast, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Arthur B. Davies and William Glackens. The members of this group expressed, in their work and ideas, a sturdy reaction against the Academy, with its leaning toward suave painting and technical “prettiness.” They evidenced interest in the life about them in their time and place. Because of this interest and their joint insistence upon freedom for the artists from official interference, they were called by their detractors “The Ash-can School.”
It was at this time that Sloan began to produce the important series of etchings depicting scenes and incidents of New York life, which will be included in the exhibition, such as Fifth Avenue Critic, Roofs, Summer Night and Calf Love. This work, with his painting of the period, was a forerunner of the “American Scene” school of social comment in painting.
With changes in his painting in the late ‘20’s, when he made important technical developments in form and color in this medium, his work in etching went apace, and many nude studies were produced which showed an increased interest and realization of sculptural form.
For each etching in the exhibition, Sloan has supplied a critical comment of his own.
Sloan has been a militant and courageous worker for the independence of the artist throughout his long career. With Arthur B. Davies, Walt Kuhn, and others he was active in forming the great Armory Show of modern art in 1915. He was also one of the organizers of the Society of Independent Artists, of which he has been president for over twenty years and has been the leader of the Independent movement in art.
He taught for many years, until recently, at the Art Student’s League, in New York. Among his former pupils are Mae S. Larsen and Aaron Bohrod, Chicago artists.
The exhibition will open with a reception for Mr. Sloan in the Galleries in Goodspeed Hall.
This text was taken from the exhibition release.