The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts: William Glackens

5 May

William Glackens, The Soda Fountain (1905)

This is my final post outlining the modern realist painting legacy of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.  In prior posts I traced the Academy’s realist heritage from Thomas Eakins to Thomas Anshutz, and from Anshutz to Robert Henri and John Sloan.  In this post I’m featuring yet another of Anshutz’s students at the Pennsylvania Academy, William James Glackens (1870-1938).

William Glackens (date unknown)

I’ve talked about Glackens in a prior post (Art Out The Wazoo archives, February 4, 2012) but I wanted to feature some additional works of his here.  Glackens was one of the Academy’s brightest lights, was very successful in his day and remains one of the best known of the Ashcan School of painters (also called “The Eight”) — the group of realist painters who in 1908 organized an independent exhibition of their work in defiance of the National Academy of Design’s rather rigid views about beauty in art.

William Glackens, Chez Mouquin (1905)

William Glackens, The Shoppers (1907)

Not only did Glackens study under Anshutz at the Academy, he was a classmate of John Sloan.  Sloan and Glackens became friends and Sloan introduced Glackens to Robert Henri.  In 1895, Glackens, Sloan and Henri traveled to Europe to study the Dutch Masters and to paint.  As mentioned in my February 4 post, the Impressionists greatly influenced Glackens and would give direction to his artistic career upon his return to the United States the following year.

The Ashcan School artists’ 1908 show was well received and went on tour under the management of Sloan.  Glackens’s two most prominent paintings in the 1908 show were The Shoppers and Chez Mouquin (both above).  Most of the Ashcan School artists also participated in the Exhibition of Independent Artists in 1910, a further attempt to break down the exclusivity of the National Academy.

William Glackens, Cafe Lafayette, Portrait of Kay Laurel (1914)

William Glackens, Portrait of Actress Kay Laurel (c. 1915)

Like a number of other Ashcan School artists Glackens was a newspaper and magazine illustrator before becoming a painter.  In many of his genre paintings he continued in the manner of illustration (Sloan did likewise), emphasizing communal relationships and action.

Yet Glackens’s landscapes, especially his late ones, are very Impressionistic.   Most critics see the influence of Renoir in Glackens’s later work.  I see a lot of that in his two portraits of actress Kay Laurel (above) and in Beach Umbrellas at Blue Point (below).  In his Still Life With Three Glasses I sense the influence of Matisse.  Several of Glackens’s genre works feel a lot like similar works by his friend John Sloan — I especially see that in May Day Central Park (below).

William Glackens, Family Group (c. 1910-11)

William Glackens, Beach Umbrellas at Blue Point (1915)

William Glackens, May Day Central Park (c. 1905)

As I mentioned in my February 4 post, there’s a buoyancy to his work that’s appealing and uncontrived.  The guy just seems happy!  Art critic Forbes Watson said Glackens’s paintings are “haunted by the spectre of happiness, obsessed with the contemplation of joy.”  Have a good weekend.

William Glackens, Still Life With Three Glasses (c. mid-1920s)

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