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From the Rooftops: Hyde offers sky-high exhibition
John Sloan, A Roof in Chelsea, New York, c. 1941¬¬/51, tempera underpaint with oil-varnish glaze and wax finish on composition board, 21 1/8 x 26 1/16 inches. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, purchased through the Julia L. Whittier Fund. P.946.12.2.

GLENS FALLS, NY.- The Hyde Collection is exhibiting From the Rooftops: John Sloan and the Art of a New Urban Space, organized by the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State, from June 15 through September 15.

The Melting Pot of early twentieth-century New York City lured hopeful immigrants to the burgeoning city, where many took to the tenements with the rest of the working class. The city’s poor began to find refuge on the rooftops from the claustrophobia, summer heat, and lack of fresh air in the city’s cramped sweat shops and apartments.

Ashcan School painter John Sloan (1871–1951) was, perhaps more than any other American artist in the first half of the twentieth century, preoccupied with New York City rooftops. In From the Rooftops: John Sloan and the Art of a New Urban Space, some of Sloan’s most iconic works are celebrated.

“Sloan grew up in a working-class family and understood well the gritty desperation that so often comes with poverty,” said Jonathan Canning, director of curatorial affairs and programming at The Hyde Collection. “He also knew the beauty that even a moment of respite brings, so he was able to aptly capture quiet glimpses into such liberation.”

The exhibition, organized by The Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University, offers the first in-depth examination of Sloan’s career-long fascination with the life of the urban rooftop by bringing together nearly thirty of his paintings, prints, and drawings.

Everyday life in the city — women laboring over laundry; families sleeping al fresco to escape the stifling heat of tenements; women drying their hair and gossiping; and men caring for pigeons — is depicted from a voyeur's view.

From the Rooftops includes an additional thirty works from more than a dozen of Sloan’s notable contemporaries. Among the artwork included are paintings by William Glackens and Charles Hoffbauer, photographs by Walter Rosenblum and Weegee, and prints by Martin Lewis and Armin Landeck, among others.

“Featuring Sloan’s masterful treatments of elevated urban environments in New York City alongside the work of important contemporaries (the exhibition) offers the opportunity to consider afresh the legacy of the Ashcan School and the experience of a vital part of the city in the early decades of the last century,” said Adam Thomas, curator of American art at the Palmer.

Sloan was born in Pennsylvania in 1871, the son of an amateur artist. He attended Central High School, where he was classmates with realist and fellow Ashcan artist Glackens.

He worked as a commercial artist, eventually joining the art departments of Philadelphia Inquirer and later the Philadelphia Press while studying drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under noted painter and portraitist Thomas Pollock Anshutz.

In the 1890s, Sloan started painting portraits and scenes from the streets of Philadelphia. His first exhibition was in 1900 at the Pennsylvania Academy.

He moved to New York City in 1904 and painted street scenes. After participating in the historic 1908 exhibition of The Eight at Macbeth Gallery, Sloan was considered a key figure in the Ashcan School — an artistic movement during the early twentieth century best known for works portraying scenes of daily life in New York, usually in the poorest neighborhoods. As he painted the gritty conditions of the city's poor, he became more vocal about social issues, in 1910 organizing the Exhibition of Independent Artists and joining the Socialist Party.

Sloan died in 1951. His works are included in the collections of such well-respected American museums as the Wadsworth Atheneum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, National Gallery of Art, and Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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