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Life’s Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush with Leisure, 1895–1925

November 28, 2007 - February 10, 2008

The New-York Historical Society will host Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush With Leisure, 1895–1925, an exhibition of about 80 paintings organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts. "Ashcan School" is the broad term, coined in the 1930s, still used today to refer to a vibrant group of New York-based realist painters. These include the famous early 20th century group of The Eight, as well as their wider circle and later followers. These painters, unofficially led by Robert Henri, depicted the changing social and political environment of their times. An expressive and cosmopolitan group of painters, the Ashcan artists embraced a credo to paint what they saw around them; recording these images with quick brush strokes, saturated pallets and heavy impasto.

Saloons like McSorley's Old Ale House formed the hub of the workingman's leisure universe. John Sloan, "McSorley's Bar, " 1912. Oil on canvas, 26 x 32 in. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society purchase.

Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush With Leisure, 18951925 will include paintings by Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, George Luks and George Bellows as well as Jerome Myers, Guy Pene du Bois, Walt Kuhn, Edward Hoppe and Rockwell Kent. This exhibition and its accompanying catalogue will focus upon these artists' fascination with the varied forms of leisure and recreation available to working and middle class audiences from the turn of the century through the 1920s. Their paintings recorded the dress and behavior, as well as the settings, of the modern world at play: cafes, theaters, arenas, bars, beaches and parks. While their images were often of the lower socio-economic class, the exhibition will also explore representations of urban middle class life, as both groups enjoyed both traditional and novel leisure pursuits whether in New York or Paris.

Creative: Tronvig Group