Turn of the century America saw a shift in focus from rural life to city life. Painters like Everett Shinn were chroniclers of this change.
Everett Shinn was an American artist born in New Jersey in 1876. He began his career as a newspaper illustrator, working for such publications as The Philadelphia Press, The World, and Harper’s Weekly. While Shinn was at Philadelphia Press, he befriended William Glackens, George Luks, and John Sloan. They influenced Shinn to bring the grittier side of urban living to the forefront of his work and were future members of a group known as “The Eight”.
The Eight were united by their interest in both urban realism and their contempt for the old fashioned and conservative aesthetics that were dictated by European ideals. These artists believed that art should not be set apart from everyday realties of American life. They painted New York in a nonromantic way, favoring scenes of slums, bars, and human plight over more peaceful scenes. The Eight, who later became known as the Ashcan School, set the stage for painting trends in the 20th century and challenged ideas of what was an acceptable subject to paint.
What appealed most to Everett Shinn was the theater. In 1899, he visited Paris and saw the works of Manet and Degas which greatly influenced his style. Shinn began to paint unusual vantage points and actors and dancers in action. His worked depicted parts of the stage and the heads of the audience or the musicians playing during the performance to illustrate the juxtaposition between the stage and the world beyond it. This brought a balance of the urban realism Shinn favored and the escapism of the stage.
Theater and entertainment captivated Shinn and became the focus of his later career. He wrote plays, became the art director for studios such as MGM, and designed backdrops. However, these were not his only artistic pursuits. In 1911 he finished a mural that was commissioned by the Trenton City Hall. The mural shows steel and pottery laborers at work, harkening back to his interest in urban scenes.
Everett Shinn captured life in turn of the century cities in a way that the growing medium of photography could not. His paintings captured the zeitgeist of a maturing nation and the dazzling appeal of the stage.
Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.