William James Glackens, 1870 - 1938
William Glackens was an Illustrator and an American Impressionist who is considered to be one of the most influential artists in the history of American Art. He is also my Great Uncle! In 1904, William Glackens married my grandfather's sister, Edith Dimock, who was also an artist. Edith and William had two children; Ira Glackens, born in 1907, and Lenna Glackens, born in 1913. Lenna Glackens was named after her grandmother (Edith's mother): Lenna Demont Dimock. Ira was named after his grandfather (Edith's father): Ira Dimock, who was a silk manufacturer. I am so very happy to have been given the family name Lenna! (with two n's - not 1, and pronounced like henna).
William Glackens was born in Philadelphia in 1870. He graduated from Philadelphia's Central High with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1890. Two of his classmates were fellow artist John Sloan, and noted Art collector Albert Barnes. Later on, Glackens helped Barnes start what became one of the most famous art collections in America. But first, Glackens started his career in art out by illustrating for various newspapers, books, and magazines. He was considered an 'artist reporter' and did work for the Philadelphia Record, the Philadelphia Press and other papers in the early 1900's. Reporters would rush to the scene, make a fast sketch and then later finish it from memory before bringing it to the press. At the same time, Glackens was studying painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with contemporaries George Luks, John Sloan and Everett Shinn. It was at the Academy where Glackens and his friends met master teacher and artist, Robert Henri. Henri had a profound influence on them. These artists, together with George Bellows, Ernest Lawson and others would later become known as the 'Ashcan painters' because they often drew their subject matter from real life, urban life. The Ashcan School was not really a school, but a way of painting. The artists in this movement wanted to show turn-of-the-century New York City as it was; through portraits of daily life in the city, not idealized versions. It's been said that Urban Realism was the first important American art movement of the early twentieth century.
The primary members of the Ashcan movement included The Eight, which were: Robert Henri, Arthur B. Davies, Maurice Prendergast, Ernest Lawson, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, John Sloan, and George Luks. George Bellows later joined them. These artists were called 'New York Realists', but names like "revolutionary black gang" and "apostles of ugliness" were also used to describe these artists by their critics. Their paintings had unromantic and matter-of-fact titles like: The Wrestlers, The Shoppers, and Hairdressers' Window. The Ashcan artists tried to capture spur of the moment happenings in regular, everyday life events.
In February of 1908, with Henri leading them, the Eight held a landmark exhibition of Urban Realism at the Macbeth Galleries in New York City. This was an important exhibit because the group challenged what was the 'norm' for art exhibitions by going against academic and aesthetic traditions and daring to show nitty gritty realism in their work. Urban Realism was not so much a style of work, but a desire to bring art closer in touch with real life. Through this exhibit and further work, they influenced many generations of artists to come by their advancement of modernism in America art. Their preoccupation with urban life and ordinary people produced the counterpart in drawing and painting to realism in literature in the early 1900's.
Glackens was a protégé of Robert Henri, with whom he shared a studio with in 1894. Later in 1895, Glackens traveled to France and Holland with Henri and another artist, Elmer Schofield. They saw many artists such as Rembrandt, Velasquez, Goya, and Manet, which influenced their art. When Glackens returned to America he continued to do illustrative reporting for some time, but he gave it up to concentrate on painting in 1914.
where you can see his art:
In person, you can see William Glacken's work in a number of museums around the country. Here is an incomplete list:
The Museum of Art, FT Lauderdale, 1 East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL. This museum has over 200 pieces by William Glackens. His son Ira bequeathed his own extensive personal collection of art works done by his father to this Museum when Ira passed away without any heirs. There is even a period room in this museum set up to replicate one of Glacken's apartments in New York City. Glacken's painting, The Artist's Daughter in Chinese Costume is at this museum.
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art 4420 Warwick Blvd. Kansas City, Missouri. ~ Girls on the Shore (1922)
The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC has a number of Glackens paintings; Beach Scene (before 1930), Beach Umbrellas at Blue Point (1915), and many of his illustrations.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 26th Street, Philadelphia, PA ~
Museum of Art
245 West Olney Road (at Mowbray Arch), Norfolk, Virginia ~ The Shoppers (1907)
Snite Museum of Art
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN ~ Artist's Wife and son (1911)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City ~
Hammerstein's Roof Garden, (1901)
The Hunter Museum of American Art, 10 Bluff View, Chattanooga, TN ~ Miss Olga D. (1910) and The Horse Chestnut Tree, Washington Square (1919)
Wadsworth Atheneum of Art, 600 Main Street, Hartford, CT. This is my local museum and I have visited the paintings of my Great Uncle there often. ~ Portrait of the Artist's Wife (1905) and West Hartford (1907) are two of his paintings you'll find there.
New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain,
Washington Square (1910)