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Home >> Painting Styles >> American Ashcan

American Ashcan

In the early years of the twentieth century, an art movement called American Ashcan came into prominence in the United States. This movement was concerned with depicting daily urban life in its various nuances. Realism was in the air, and the American Ashcan School applied it to poor urban America.

There were eight principal artists originally associated with this movement, and they have collectively been called ‘The Eight’. Later, American Ashcan came to include other artists who were preoccupied with the urban theme.

To understand what lay at the heart of the American Ashcan movement, it is perhaps worthwhile to consider this quotation by Robert Henri, one of the members of ‘The Eight’:

“Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable, and we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of a life’s experience.”

This connection with life, that Henri considered so intrinsic to the value of art, is apparent in his paintings. Of these, Snow in New York and Street Scene in the Snow and his portraits of common men, women and children are fine examples.

    Besides Henri, the other members of ‘The Eight’ were,
  • Arthur B. Davies – Home and Down in the Valley are two examples of this painter’s work in the American Ashcan style.
  • Maurice Prendergast
  • Ernest Lawson – He painted landscapes of urban areas.
  • William Glackens
  • Everett Shinn – Shinn was fascinated by the circus, the theatre and everything to do with the stage. This interest is reflected in his paintings such as Girl on Stage.
  • John French Sloan – Some of Sloan’s famous and typically American Ashcan style paintings are McSorley's Bar, Sixth Avenue Elevated at Third Street and Wake of the Ferry.
  • George Luks – Horse and Carriage, Lined up for Business Outside the Plaza, Family Around a Table are works that depict urban America. Two other well-known works are The Wrestlers and The Spielers.
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