Chamber Pots and Gibson Girls: Clutter and matter in John Sloan’s Graphic Art

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Abstract

In the New York City Life etchings of 1905–06 and in the satirical and occasionally scatological “distortions” of mass-market magazine covers and advertisements he began to make around the same time, John Sloan created an art invested in the materiality of bodies and things. These works satirize and set themselves against the trends in commercial illustration—and specifically Charles Dana Gibson’s famous Girl and her imitators—which defined the visual appeal of Collier’s Weekly, the Saturday Evening Post, and the other magazines Sloan sometimes worked for as an illustrator. They are at once an insider’s critique of popular culture and statements of realist intent. Tracing cluttered spaces and frank depictions of bodily form and function back to the eighteenth-century poems and prints of William Hogarth and Jonathan Swift and on into early twentieth-century modernisms, this article locates Sloan within a long tradition of realist opposition to idealizing visions of human perfectibility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-57
Number of pages30
JournalAmerican Art
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015

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