About the artist:
William James Glackens (March 13, 1870 – May 22, 1938) was an American realist painter and one of the founders of the Ashcan School of American art. He is also known for his work in helping Albert C. Barnes to acquire the European paintings that form the nucleus of the famed Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. His dark-hued, vibrantly painted street scenes and depictions of daily life in pre-WW I New York and Paris first established his reputation as a major artist. His later work was brighter in tone and showed the strong influence of Renoir. During much of his career as a painter, Glackens also worked as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines in Philadelphia and New York City. By 1910, Glackens began to concentrate on a "highly personal coloristic style" which represented a break from the Ashcan approach to art. It was, his biographer William Gerdts wrote, "his conversion to mainstream Impressionism." His work was often compared to that of Renoir, to the point that he was called "the American Renoir." Glackens' response to this criticism was always the same: "Can you think of a better man to follow than Renoir?" In aesthetic terms, Glackens' link to his friends who were a part of the Ashcan movement was always tenuous. Ultimately, Glackens was a "pure" painter for whom the sensuousness of the art form was paramount, not a social chronicler or an artist with a bent for politics or provocation. At this time, millionaire-inventor Albert C. Barnes, a classmate and friend from Central High School, began to study and collect modern art. He commissioned Glackens to buy him some "advanced" works while on a trip to Paris. Glackens returned from Paris with about twenty paintings, which included works by Cézanne, Renoir, Manet, and Matisse, formed the core of what became the Barnes Foundation Collection. Glackens also advised Barnes on later art movements and purchases. Among New York artists, Glackens was known for his sophisticated eye and his wide and cosmopolitan tastes. Not surprisingly, he was less unnerved by the European modernism of the 1913 Armory Show than some of his Ashcan colleagues who saw that exhibition as a threat to American realist art. In 1916, Glackens served as the president of the newly founded Society of Independent Artists, whose mission was to provide broader exhibition opportunities for lesser-known artists. He continued to travel to France between 1925 and 1935 to study the work of the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists. His paintings received gold medals from annual exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1933 and again in 1936. In contrast to many of his friends among The Eight, such as Sloan and Luks, whose personal lives were turbulent and whose finances were uncertain, Glackens enjoyed a happy marriage, a contented home life, and a steady career, though by the 1930s he was seen by a younger generation interested in abstraction, surrealism, and political art as an old-fashioned artist. Collector Albert C. Barnes bought many of Glackens’ best paintings, some of which are exhibited by the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Juliana Force were admirers and purchased works for the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Duncan Phillips purchased a Glackens oil for the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. Glackens died suddenly while vacationing in Westport, Connecticut on May 22, 1938. His posthumous retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art several months later, also shown at the Carnegie Institute at Pittsburgh, was well received. His legacy is linked to that of the Ashcan school and The Eight. Although he distanced himself from some of their ideals, William Glackens continued to be considered an integral part of the realist movement in American art. The largest collection of Glackens' art has been housed since 2001 at the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, where an entire wing is dedicated to his work; the museum holds approximately 500 Glackens paintings in its permanent collection.