Ashcan School

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A term (first used in print in 1934) applied to a loose group of American painters active in New York from about 1908 until the First World War, in reference to the everyday urban subject matter they favoured. The painters embraced by the term were inspired largely by Robert Henri (one of whose dictums was that ‘Art cannot be separated from life’), and the four central figures—Glackens, Luks, Shinn, and Sloan—had been members of The Eight, a short-lived group founded by Henri in 1908. (The two terms are often confused, but ‘The Eight’ has a precise meaning, whereas ‘Ashcan School’ is a broader and vaguer notion; there is overlap between them, but some of the members of The Eight did not paint Ashcan-type subjects.) Before settling in New York, the four central Ashcan artists had all been artist-reporters on the Philadelphia Press and so had been used to making rapid sketches of scenes of everyday life. In style and technique, however, they are now seen to have differed less from contemporary academic painting than they themselves believed. Although they often painted slum life and outcasts, they were interested more in the picturesque aspects of these subjects than in the social issues they raised. Bellows and Hopper are among the other artists associated with the group.

Subjects: Art.

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