Best known as a member of the Ashcan School, painter and illustrator John Sloan (1871-1951) often focused his paintings and prints on city life and its people during the early 20th century. However, between 1900 and 1910, Sloan produced a weekly series of word and picture puzzles for the Sunday supplement of the Philadelphia Press, one of the countrys leading illustrated newspapers. The Puzzling World of John Sloanon view for the first time June 6 September 6, 2015explores this little-known facet of Sloans early newspaper career, presenting 25 works from the Museums collection. The puzzles demonstrate the artists imagination and verbal and visual wit, as well as the fluid boundaries between fine art and newspaper illustration in the first decade of the 20th century.
University of Delaware Ph.D. student Margarita Karasoulas and Delaware Art Museum
Alfred Appel, Jr., Curatorial Fellow,who conducted the research for The Puzzling World of John Sloanin the Museums extensive Sloan archives, combed through over 100 newspaper pages featuring Sloans puzzle designs to curate the exhibition. The 25 complex puzzles highlighted in the exhibition include mazes, rebuses, hidden pictures, a cryptic letter, and a delictate watercolor.
Sloans puzzles are deceptively simple in appearance, Karasoulas explains, But the puzzles are conceptually challenging, incorporating hidden words or images, pictorial puns, as well as components that require cutting, pasting, folding, or rearranging.
At the turn of the 20th century, puzzles commanded the attention of readers nationwide. Competing publications engaged in fierce circulation wars, luring customers with eye-catching visual effects, colored comics, and assorted games and activities. By the middle of the decade, puzzles appeared in virtually every national newspaper, and puzzles remain regular fixtures of the Sunday paper even to this day.