William Glackens, my great Uncle
William Glackens (1870 - 1938) was an Illustrator and American Impressionist, a modernist. Looking at the history of American Art, Glackens is considered one of the most influential artists of his time. I'm proud to say, William Glackens is family to me!
Glackens married my grandfather's sister, Edith Dimock in 1904. She was an artist as well. Edith and William had two children; Ira Glackens born in 1907 and Lenna Glackens born in 1913. Lenna was named after her maternal grandmother, Lenna Demont Dimock and Ira was named after his maternal grandfather Ira Dimock, a wealthy silk manufacturer. I am so pleased to have been given the family name; Lenna.
William Glackens was born in Philadelphia in 1870 and graduated from Philadelphia's Central High with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1890. Two of his classmates were artist John Sloan and noted Art collector Albert Barnes. In 1912, Glackens helped Barnes start what has become one of the most famous art collections in America, The Barnes Foundation. Glackens began his career by illustrating for newspapers, books, and magazines. His job was that of an 'artist reporter'. He worked for the Philadelphia Record, the Philadelphia Press and other papers during the early 1900's. Artist reporters rushed to the scene, made a fast sketch and then later finished 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 his 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'. They took their subject matter from real life, especially 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. Urban Realism was the first important American art movement of the early twentieth century.
The primary members of the Ashcan movement were also known as "The Eight". This group included 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 thought of as the 'New York Realists', but names like "the revolutionary black gang" and "apostles of ugliness" were also used to describe them 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 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 of the day by going against academic and aesthetic traditions and daring to show gritty realism in their work. It has been said, 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 protegee of Robert Henri and in 1894 he shared a studio with him. In 1895, Glackens traveled with Henri to France and Holland with another artist, Elmer Schofield. They studied and were influenced by artists such as Rembrandt, Velasquez, Goya, and Manet. When Glackens returned to the America he returned to illustrative reporting but gave that up to concentrate on painting in 1914. Enjoy some of his selected pieces are shown here on my website.
Written by Lenna Young Andrews, the great niece of William Glackens.
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Where you can see William Glacken's art:
The NSU Museum of Art, 1 East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL, has over 200 pieces by William Glackens. William's son Ira bequeathed his own extensive personal collection of art works by his father to this Museum when he passed away without any heirs. In the museum there is a period room set up to replicate the Glacken's apartment in New York City and a stunning painting of Lenna Glackens, The Artist's Daughter in Chinese Costume.
The Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130. Many paintings and drawings by William Glackens, as well as some by his wife Edith Glackens and daughter Lenna Glackens. William Glackens helped his friend Albert Barnes by acquiring paintings for the Barnes collection by Picasso, VanGogh and Cezanne.
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 also many of his illustrations.
Philadelphia Museum of Art,
Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 26th Street, in Philadelphia, PA
Chrysler Museum of Art,
245 West Olney Road (at Mowbray Arch), Norfolk, Virginia The Shoppers (1907)
The Snite Museum of Art,
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana - Artist's Wife and son (1911)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City.
Hammerstein's Roof Garden, (1901)
The National Gallery of Art, on the National Mall between Third and Seventh Streets at Constitution Avenue NW. Family Group, (1911)
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 was my local museum when I lived in CT. I have visited the paintings of my Great Uncle there many times. 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, Connecticut - Washington Square (1910)